#10 Poetry – Supposedly

How easy it is to get distracted when you’re NOT supposed to get distracted
How easy it is to fall for someone you’re NOT supposed to fall for
How easy it is to do things that are frowned upon by others

If all of us are such rebels
and if all of us know that
then why don’t they teach us
to do things we’re not supposed to do
so instead of doing things
that we’re not supposed
to do we will do things
that we are supposed to,
I suppose.

Savvy?

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Touched me Somewhere- A February Bride by Betsy St Amant

Books, Food and Me!!

the february bride

Happily ever after guaranteed.

Allie left the love of her life at the altar—to save him from a lifetime of heartbreak.

When a Valentine’s Day wedding brings them back together, she struggles against her family’s destructive history. Can Allie ever realize that a marriage is so much more than a wedding dress?

History repeats itself when Allie Andrews escapes the church on her wedding day—in the same dress passed down for generations and worn by all the women in her family—women with a long history of failed marriages.

Allie loves Marcus, but fears she’s destined to repeat her family’s mistakes. She can’t bear to hurt Marcus worse. Marcus Hall never stopped loving Allie and can only think of one reason she left him at the altar—him.

When the two are thrown together for his sister’s Valentine’s Day wedding, he discovers the truth and realizes their story might be far from…

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#1 Alfred Hitchcock – Dial M For Murder

I just wrote about Secret Window where the leading character completely breaks down when he finds out that his wife is cheating on him. On the contrary, Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is a calculated man. Wendice decides to take it slow. He takes his time, gathering evidence against his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) and her lover, an American writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Very carefully he chooses the person best fit for the job and everything is absolutely well planned. But there is no such thing as a perfect murder. When things go wrong, he improvises an excellent plan B.


The film was shot in 3D. Yes. It was shot in 3D and it had a limited release in 3D. However Hitchcock wasn’t impressed with the look and ultimately it was released in flat. (2D)

It appears as if this was the most obvious Hitchcock cameo. Or at least one of it.


To be very frank, what separates the film from any other film by the master of suspense is that the film is more talky than any other. There is no mystery in terms of what is happening. We know who the murderer is. And yet there is more to discover. Yet there is a mystery. That may be the reason why it is ranked 9th on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest Mystery films in June 2008.

This fact brings me to the point of view character in the film. A point of view character may not be the protagonist of the film. Remember Citizen Kane? The reporter is the main point of view character discovering the story of Charles Foster Kane through many other sources. But he is not the protagonist. In Dial M For Murder, we stick with the protagonist right from the second scene in the film. And stay with him right till the end. There is just one scene where we know more than the character and that is the time when the mystery is revealed.

The film is adapted from a play. And there is not much that changed in terms of the treatment. Most of the film takes place at one place. That too in one room. It was pretty evident that even the outdoor shots were shot using a chroma. Maybe that is why the film could be finished in 36 days.

I feel the fact that the film takes place at just one location is the best part of the film. At no point, I felt bored of looking at the same frames again and again. And of course the performance by Ray Milland is exceptional. It is one of those films where you genuinely feel the bad guy should get away with all the money with an evil grin on his face. All thanks to this wonderful actor!

#1 Master of Mystery – Secret Window

Just as the titles start rolling, we enter the life of writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) quite secretly through a window in his secluded house across a lake. Going through a rough divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him, Rainey’s daily life is nothing but moments of ennui. Apart from the view of a lake and what used to be a nice garden, there is nothing more left in the rusty life of the bestselling author.

But of course, life becomes much more interesting when John Shooter (John Turturro) knocks on his door accusing Rainey of “stealing his story”. Rainey takes a firm stand on his story being his original work and was published two years before Shooter wrote the story. Shooter accepts the possibility and asks for a copy of the magazine. He even agrees never to bother Rainey again if this is ture. But if Rainey fails to present any such proof, he has to publish the story with a different end the Shooter suggests and give him his due credit for it.

Things look fair and square in the start. But they never are. There are perks in this deal and all of them are paid in blood. By the time Rainey learns the truth behind Shooter and his story, his life is flipped inside out. And also the lives of the ones who got involved.

Trailer here.


Spoilers Ahead

There are very few films adapted from the work of Stephen King that I am not fond of. You sink deeper and deeper in the mystery as the story unfolds and by the time you reach the end you are a character in the film. You are not a third person but you are in the film. The climax in particular of such films is of utmost important. As Rainey says correctly, “The only thing that matters, is the ending. The most important part of the story is the ending. And THIS one, is perfect.”

At times I thought some things were too obvious. The mystery behind the story of John Shooter has its hints everywhere in the film. Some prefer to uncover things as the movie proceeds. Some believe it is better if it strikes you right in the end and makes you wonder, where did it come from? I belong to the second category. In such cases I like to watch the movie again and find out the subtle hidden details that signaled that something weird is coming. In this one, I could unravel the mystery in the second scene with Shooter itself with the mention of Cigarettes. Which brings me to an interesting note on editing. Show something for too long and people know what you are aiming at, keep something too short and people forget that it ever happened. A way to get away with this one is to emphasize your important lines, some shots from some other perspective right in the end as your point of view character uncovers the truth.

There has to be a special mention to the DoP of the film, Fred Murphy. The film never goes into a low key look. Yet it manages to scare you shitless in broad daylight. There are simple shots which convey the depths of the story very eloquently visually.

Johnny Depp is so freakishly convincing that I was pretty much on his side from start to end. I think that is the absolute purpose of a movie of such gravity. Overall, the movie has not received a warm response from everyone. Knowing that it is a Stephen King novel based film, there is a big shadow of expectations that follows. I haven’t read the book. But the adaptation, as a separate entity has given me a lot to learn and a lot to enjoy.

#6 My Creation – Pardes (2012)

I had just finished my first year in college. I was getting a few assignments to shoot. I had an agenda of making a film every month. This is the movie I came up with. It started as a simple following assignment. And it turned out to be a short and sweet documentary which earned me multiple awards in the years to come. And most importantly it showed me how difficult it is to even think to produce one short film per month.

Pardes

It is the story of a man who came to Mumbai in search of a better and comforting life. The main character is a bhelwala (street chat seller) who is selling bhel in Mumbai for 16 years. The story explores the problems he faced and how his roommates helped him find solutions from time to time. Furthermore, the story explains his thoughts about his wife and his four kids which stay in village. Why doesn’t he bring them in Mumbai? Doesn’t he miss them? The story explains.

I am listing down a number of things I learnt while making the film:

1. Get your character right: Find an interesting enough character and your job is half done. Well, not literally. But a character with multiple personal challenges commands attention.

2. Multiple locations: I had a number of options open. The fact that attracted me with this particular subject was that he roams from place to place. I had the liberty of changing the location as I shoot him. I had the liberty of making him stand anywhere I like and take a timelapse. In the end my choice of locations made it look even more cinematic.

3. Small crew, small camera: I like to work alone. But a small crew of dedicated members is always welcome. Smaller the camera, lesser the attention. When using a DSLR, it is really easy to go around taking shots that you like. If you can manage to do so with a camera even smaller, nothing like it. At times, the complexity of the shot, the locations demand the use of smaller cameras with inferior power. But if the end result is going to be interesting enough, it doesn’t really matter.

4. The story is made on the edit table: After the interviews I was trying so hard to make him look like the hero of my film. It didn’t work out. I had to change the story by a great extent after taking his interview. And that actually worked in my favour.

5. Hide that lapel mic: Pretty simple actually. Take 5 seconds out of your precious time and pay attention to these smaller mistakes you can easily avoid.

6. Inserts and cut aways: I finished off the interview in a day. However it took me two and a half months to finish the documentary. I was roaming all over Mumbai collecting small clips for my film, making timelapses and staging some shots as well.

7. Hardwork, hardwork and hardwork: It’s a simple formula actually. To make something, anything, you have to devote your time. You cannot produce anything worthwhile without putting in your heart and soul. It is just not possible. That’s why I feel making a film in 1 month is kind of unrealistic and cruel. It kills the art.

8. You can’t make the films you don’t like: And the opposite of this is also true. My father disliked the film as I showed him the first cut. This was the first film, he told me that he did not like. It was a major blow. Yet towards the end I was eager on finishing it. I just wanted to know what have I invested in…

9. Take care of that hard drive: Luckily I had the export of the film on my laptop. My portable hard drive crashed and it had my FCP files. I could never retrieve the edit. I wanted to make a smaller version, I couldn’t.

10. The best compliment: As I stated above, this started as an assignment at FX School. We were told to follow any interesting character and ask him questions about his life. Making a documentary out of it came much later in our syllabus. When I showed it to my professor, she asked me for the FCP edit file. I told her that it wasn’t possible for me to retrieve it. She refused to accept my submission saying she does not believe that I made it. This, by far, is the best compliment I have ever received for my film. (Although it wasn’t intended to be one!)

#5 Philomena

“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother you are no longer the centre of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”

~ Jessica Lange

The film is based on the life of Philomena Lee. She was forced to give up her child for adoption as a teenager as it was considered as a sin to have a child out of wedlock. The real story and her interview is available over here. (And on many other pages)

Watch the trailer here.

I consider myself pretty close to my mother. And she considers me as her friend. So as a friend of her I can understand that how she has orbited her life around me and my younger brother. Same goes with any good mother for that matter. Although Philomena is an accidental mother, she is a mother nevertheless. And that itself makes the story so intense.

When we dig deeper, although the way the nuns behaved initially by taking away Philomena’s child from her was cruelly portrayed but maybe that was the right decision for the child. The child grew up to be someone important which may not have been possible had he been with Philomena. Maybe the end result for him, as a person was better than alright. But the mother lost her child and the child lost his right to have a mother. That’s what the story is all about.

One of the most interesting points over here is the writer Steve Coogan plays the point of view character in the film. In a way making a comment on the true incident. I always prefer involving my lead actors in the story. I like it if they provide their inputs. Even if I don’t incorporate them, I know what is more convincing to the actors. Once the actor is fully convinced with each line, with each reaction we have a smooth journey ahead. In this case, we know the reason behind such a great performance.


Some trivia (because the story behind the film is always equally interesting.)

The movie incorporates some home video while tracing Philomena’s son. Some of the shots are from actual footage of her real son.


 

Frankly speaking there are very few “English” (movies of England) movies that I don’t like. I am a fan of Richard Curtis and his gift of turning simple stories into cinematic brilliance. We need not say anything about Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Christopher Nolan. Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen and of course Dame Judi Dench; British talent knows no bounds. I think it is the overall approach to film making that makes the difference. When I am watching an English film, I know I will not be disappointed in the end because of a predictable plot.

The film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Original Score. The film won none of them. The writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope received their due recognition for their work at British Academy Film Awards.

#15 Write Ups: The Games We Play

Since past couple of weeks, I haven’t been doing anything productive. A result of a work heavy month which literally wore me out. I just sat in front of my gaming console and enjoyed butchering random characters, escorting them to their cyber graves. And I enjoyed it to be honest. I enjoyed the fact that I am the most powerful character in the game’s universe. I needn’t worry about dying as I can load the game again. And just like in any game, I am destined to win.

Maybe this is the reason why violent games are so in fashion. We, as gamers; don’t have to fear the consequences. There is always an easy way out. But the puzzle of our life is not a video game. Right?

Well, technically speaking modern open world games have created a real life experience for us. The expressions, the stories, the characters all look very believable as we play the game. The maps in the world of video games are huge. Yet, the way our console can present that level of detail is that it only renders the field of view. One perspective, one point of view at a time. A nerd named Ray Kurzweil has predicted that considering the accelerating progress in technologies, it will be possible to build a supercomputer more powerful than the human brain by 2045. So suppose we do build a supercomputer that can simulate the game of life for us, what else do we want? Isn’t life all about the experience of it?

Going even more crazy now, what if we have built a supercomputer so strong already? And we have decided to connect ourselves to that singularity in order to do as we please, without any consequence? Just to safeguard the integrity of the game we have erased that bit from our memory. Our mind is the console, rendering one point of view at a time.

If we are in the game, we are at the mercy of the supercomputer. We don’t have the controller in our hands. It is just the illusion of control. We are in the game, we are a character. Some character. We don’t even know if we are the good one, the bad one or the insignificant one. We don’t know if we will respawn once we are gone. We don’t know whether the game will restart. We don’t know the rules. That’s what makes it so confusing; matters beyond our control. Matters beyond our understanding.

This is the reason to fear. And ironically this is the reason not to fear. Whatever is the story of the game, it will take us forward. We will do things, as the story suggests us to. We will win sometimes, just to keep the game “lively”. And we will lose sometimes, just to keep the game “lively”. We just have to do our best in whatever the story unfolds.

If you ask a supercomputer, the proof of its consciousness it will give you one. But only if it is programmed to give you. The supercomputer will know for sure that the proof is obvious. But is it? Consciousness is such an unthinkable phenomenon, something so obvious that is why so dubious. We can sure give the proof of being self aware; being in control of ourselves. But we can never be sure if we are the ones pulling the strings.

Einstein was just as useless as I am. Maybe even more. He wrote this:

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace the whole of nature in its beauty.
Note: In all this nonsense, my next level has loaded. Need to take some more characters closer to their destinies.