Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

motion picture aficionado

Oh, what would I not give to forget just to be able to remember again! What would it be like to forget something which is the very essence of you and then to have it happen to you again?

“There’s an emotional core to each of our memories…”

eternal sunshine minimalist

As the movie starts, we meet Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) who seems a little disoriented. He ditches work and takes a train to Montauk which puzzles him as he’s not an impulsive person. And then he sees her, all clad in orange, walking along the beach, Clementine Kruczynski (can we take a moment to appreciate the name? Oh, and Kate Winslet). He looked away, trying not to look long at her. As if she were the sun, yet he found himself staring at her, starstruck.

Joel: (narration) “Why do I fall in love with every woman I see who shows me the…

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Movie Quote of the Day!

“It had never occurred to me that our lives, which had been so closely interwoven, could unravel with such speed. If I’d known, maybe I’d have kept tighter hold of them and not let unseen tides pull us apart.”

– Kathy, Never Let Me Go (2010)

Ever since I saw this film, I wanted to read the book. I had to know how something could be so gloomy and yet so beautiful. And now that I have the books something’s broken and I just can’t seem to read it. But someday perhaps a little bit of magic will help me cross that bridge for I am and shall forever be an optimist.

Movie Quote of the Day!

“I knew guys like you in the Army. You do any terrifying thing you are asked to do, but you have to do it running. You think you can outrun your fears, your doubts… The only thing that really scares you is stillness. But everyone is overtaken eventually.”

-Carl, Munich (2005)

I guess some people are just afraid that if they stop running, reality would catch up to them.

Munich

Man of Steel (2013): The superhero movie we need, but not the one we deserve!

15th June 2013, Wide Angle (Ahmedabad), Screen 1: Seat P-15. I saw it in 3D. I have never been a fan of 3D, hurts my pea-sized brain and thus I saw it again the next day, in 2D.

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naïve
I’m just out to find
The better part of me

Back in 2001, Five for Fighting performed ‘It’s not Easy (The Superman Song)’ and the song was also included in the soundtrack for ‘Smallville’. The thing with shows and their soundtracks is that when you have hours and hours of the show, the songs somehow render themselves to the overarching story-line and the combination feels meant to be (some of my favourite examples include ‘My Baby Blue’ for Breaking Bad and ‘Remember Remember’ for HIMYM). Anyways, the reason I’m talking about this particular song is that if you watch Man of Steel and then listen to the song, you’ll somehow appreciate both the song and the movie so much more.

It won’t be a heresy to say that we live in the golden age of comic book movies and yet almost all of them are quite similar. These movies depend heavily on one event that changed the life of a common man and made him powerful and then through some sort of an inner struggle, he becomes a hero with an on again off again love life with a girl who is there just so that in the final act of heroism our hero can close his eyes for a brief moment and see her face and then endure and win the battle.

We’d had 8 live action films, 6 television series, 2 radio shows and one musical featuring Superman before ‘Man of Steel’ so why did we need another film starring the Last Son of Krypton? Why not focus on other comic book characters if that’s the genre one wants to make a film in. Surely one could have gone for Wonder Woman or The Martian Manhunter or The ATOM or Booster Gold or The Flash (he’s been my favourite superhero since as long as I can remember). So, why Superman? Well, the answer to that question lies in his humility. He is an all-powerful being, a god amongst men and yet he is more humane than all of us. That’s why.

What sets Superman apart is that he has the wisdom to use his power for good. He’s got the kind of maturity, or innocence, really…to look at the world very, very simply. That’s what makes him different.

The lore of Superman has always relied heavily on his parents, both the birth parents and the Earth parents (coincidental rhyme!). It has been through them that Clark/Kal learns who he wants to be.

I’m more than a bird,
I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me

 

Martha Kent: Sweetie. How can I help you if you won’t let me in?
Clark Kent – age 9: The world’s too big, Mom.
Martha Kent: Then make it small. Just, um, focus on my voice. Pretend it’s an island out in the ocean. Can you see it?
Clark Kent – age 9: I see it.
Martha Kent: Then swim towards it, honey.

I guess we all feel like outsiders or alien at some point or the other in our lives…and if you didn’t then I can only hope that if and when you do, you have an anchor holding you down just like Clark had his mother (Martha!).

Jonathan Kent’s death in the comic books is arguably the most poignant moment in the entire history of comic books. He dies of a heart attack and Superman realizes that even though he is the most powerful being on earth, he too is powerless against nature and thus I understand that when the movie changed the way he died, it must have upset a lot of people but this version plays better with the whole philosophy of Jonathon Kent and what he wanted for Clark.

I’m more than a bird,
I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
It’s not easy to be me

He looks up and sees his father knowing very well that he could save him before anyone could blink his eye but his father stops him, a final attempt on his part to conceal the true identity of his son, to save him from the narrow fearful minds of mankind for he was convinced that Clark had to wait, that the world was not ready. And it is in that moment that we fully realize why this version of Clark Kent doesn’t want to be the hero, why he doesn’t want to be the one to shoulder the weight of the Earth. His father gave his life trying to save him and he doesn’t want to undo all his efforts.

Jonathan Kent: You’re the answer, son. You’re the answer to, “are we alone in the universe?”
Clark Kent at 13: I don’t want to be.
Jonathan Kent: And I don’t blame you, son. It’d be a huge burden for anyone to bear; but you’re not just anyone, Clark, and I have to believe that you were… that you were sent here for a reason. All these changes that you’re going through, one day… one day you’re gonna think of them as a blessing; and when that day comes, you’re gonna have to make a choice… a choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.
Clark Kent at 13: Can’t I just keep pretending I’m your son?
Jonathan Kent: [hugs Clark nearly in tears] You are my son.

There’s something to be said about the way Zack Snyder shoots all his movies, they are a visual treat. Watching Man of Steel is an experience in and of itself. There are shots and then there are breathtaking beautiful shots and Snyder delivers the latter in abundance. The scene where Superman dons his suit for the first time and his cape is floating in the air gracefully behind him is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever seen and then he learns to fly. MAN. So, you can only imagine my awe when I learnt that the cape was CGI. I must confess that it’s the most beautiful CGI has ever looked.

Man of Steel

Henry Cavill is perfect as Superman! I still remember watching him in Stardust (a criminally under-watched movie) and thinking, “Come on, he’d be better suited for the role of the good guy.” While watching ‘Man of Steel’, you can see from his face that he’s conflicted about what to do. To have all that power and yet having to hold it in. There are numerous scenes throughout the film where he gets bullied, be it on the bus from school or at some yard when he’s a teen or that time when a schmuck pours beer all over him. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all of the world, he walks into Clark’s and then hits on his girl. You’d think he’d retaliate in fury but he just walks away. (On an unrelated note, Microsoft Word is telling me that ‘all of the world’ is grammatically incorrect and should be replaced by ‘the entire’. Really? You’re going to correct Casablanca? For the love of movies, stop it.)

It’s a shame that he’s not in more movies. He was great in ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ which I watched on 3rd September 2015 at Cinepolis Ahmedabad (Seat Q-15; I can’t seem to remember the screen number, I knew when I learnt the multiplication table for 13 that I’d be losing out on some really important memories. Damn it!)

I wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
‘Bout a home I’ll never see

When Clark learns about his real parents and where he comes from, he goes to inform Martha and even though she smiles you can see that she is hurt, that she is afraid about what this discovery would mean for her relationship with her son. And if it were not for Diane Lane, that scene wouldn’t have worked. Anywho, few minutes later when Zod intimidates her into telling him where the codex is hidden, Clark comes in flying, soaring through the sky, punches Zod numerous times and shouts “You think you can threaten my mother?” So I guess you’re safe, Martha. Supes is very much a momma’s boy and he’s got a hell lot of daddy-issues.

Amy Adams is outstanding as Lois Lane. To me it comes down to the characters and their conviction. You can have a female playing the POTUS and she could still be nothing but a gimmick. And that’s why Lois Lane is very much like Trinity from the matrix. Even if you strip away the gender, they still remain badass characters who further the plot of the movie and don’t need a guy to save them. Lois is no damsel in distress. In an age of comicbook movies where females are delegated the role of an assistant who in 15 minutes of screentime somehow becomes the moral compass of the hero, Lane shines out because she is her own woman and she doesn’t need Superman to define her. In fact, it is she who defines him.

Michael Shannon as General Zod is just ruthless. In him, we get the formidable opposition to Superman that the story needs. It is only because of him that we get Superman. He is the metaphorical rubble that Clark has to grow through. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White is perfect. Every time Morpheus plays an authority figure, I sit back and listen to him.

It may sound absurd but don’t be naïve
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
And it’s not easy to be me

Coming to the soundtrack, I honestly believe that the Superman Theme by John Williams is not just synonymous with Superman, it is also one of the best pieces of music ever written. It’s no wonder that every superman film since the original has accommodated that theme into its soundtrack. But this movie is a re-imagining of the Guy in the Red Cape and it had to have its own identity and that’s why Snyder and Nolan turned to Zimmer for a contemporary take on the Last Son of Krypton and the end result is fascinating.

‘Man of Steel (Hans’ Original Sketchbook)’, a nearly 30 minute long track, is simply breath-taking. ‘You Die or I Do’ is crazy good (the drums steal the show) and ‘Arcade’ is just plain evil. ‘What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World’ is sheer perfection. I personally consider the ‘Interstellar’ soundtrack to be Zimmer’s best work but ‘Man of Steel’ is a close second. I always love how he uses dialogues from the movie as names for the tracks. It gives them a certain kind of authority. And while the Superman theme by Williams is still the first thing I think of when I think about Superman, Zimmer’s soundtrack is much more well-suited and wonderful.

Up, up and away, away from me
Well, it’s alright
You can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy or anything

Now, the part that irked me the first time I watched this film: the ending.

It has always been hard to write a Superman story because he’s way too powerful. The stakes need to be really high to make it believable and perhaps that’s why the two most selling comic series of the last 50 years have been ‘All Star Superman’ and ‘Death of Superman’ both of which ended with him dying. So how to make a Superman movie that works? Who should he go up against? And why should it be a struggle for the Man of Steel anyway?

And this is where Zod walks in. The moment Zod says “Either you die or I do”, you realize that he’s not going to stop before he kills Superman and then the way he scales that building, like a wild dog, it’s very chilling. This is a man who has lost his entire planet, everyone he knows and Kal-El is the only person he can blame.

General Zod:[Holding dust in his hand talking to Superman] Look at this. We could have built a new Krypton in this squalor, but you chose the humans over us. I exist only to protect Krypton. That is the sole purpose for which I was born. And every action I take, no matter how violent or how cruel, is for the greater good of my people. And now… I have no people. My soul, that is what you have taken from me!

Yes, Superman snaps Zod’s neck and kills him. But Superman is not a cold blooded killer; he didn’t intend to kill Zod. Zod left him no choice. This is what makes him a hero. When faced with an impossible choice, one that would go against everything that his father stood for, he makes the decision and takes a life. He does it to save people and it torments him. It takes a huge toll on him and I wish we had gotten another movie where we could truly explore the ramifications of the said event and the way he sees the world and himself in it.

Lois Lane: The only way you could disappear for good is to stop helping people altogether, and I sense that’s not an option for you.

I can’t stand to fly
I’m not that naïve
Men weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I really believe that ‘Man of Steel’ is one of the finest movies ever made and that it is grossly underrated. I believe that is as good as ‘Batman Begins’ if not better. Maybe the reason why we don’t appreciate ‘Man of Steel’ as much as we should is that we got ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’ after it whereas ‘Batman Begins’ was followed by ‘The Dark Knight’. (Not that I have anything against BvS, in fact I loved it. But I do get why it didn’t work for everyone.)

Man of Steel

The basic assumption of comic book movies, in the past few years is that everything happens in a benevolent world. You can always trust the cops, elected officials, your parents. It’s unfortunate that for so many years the basic idea of superheroes was made impossible by putting it in a world that didn’t need any. I think that people need an ideal to look at and to try to become. And for me, Superman is that kind of ideal.

I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me

I’d just like to say that while all of us might aspire to be a superhero and to achieve greatness, most of us would walk away when faced with the task of carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders but Clark Kent/Kal-El won’t shrug and that’s why he’s the Superhero we all deserve.

I’m only a man in a funny red sheet
I’m only a man looking for a dream
I’m only a man in a funny red sheet
And it’s not easy.
It’s not easy to be me.

And maybe that’s why he is the Man of Tomorrow because that’s where he belongs, because we aren’t ready to have him in our midst today.

Jor-El: You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Fun fact: This dialogue was taken from ‘All Star Superman Isuue Number 12’.

Man of Steel

 

Away We Go (2009): Yes, even breathing feels all right!

“Well I have been searching all of my days”

Let me start off by accepting that I am probably too young to fully appreciate this film and even if I were to somehow magically age 10 years overnight, I would still not be mature enough to relate to this movie in a manner that it deserves. But nonetheless, I am going to talk about it because in the September of 2015 when I watched this film for the first time, it helped me realize what I needed to do. For that is what a film does, it helps you find yourself vicariously, it answers the questions which you never knew you needed answered.

“Many a road, you know

I’ve been walking on

All of my days”

The movie revolves around a couple who is expecting their first child. Having realized that they need to look for a new place which would be perfect to start their family, they travel to Phoenix, Tucson, Montreal and Miami to meet with old friends and relatives in an effort to figure out which place they could call ‘Home’.

“And I’ve been trying to find

What’s been in my mind

As the days keep turning into night”

Burt: “I really want her to have an epic kind of childhood. I want her to run along streams and know how to work a canoe, be able to entertain herself outside. I want her childhood to be Huck Finn-y. You know?”

That is all the prime mover I needed to invest myself into this movie.

Somehow, I have never come across another person who has seen this movie and that is an utter shame for this is, in my opinion, the most beautifully told story that Sam Mendes has ever directed and he did helm American Beauty (1999) and my favorite Bond film of all time: Skyfall (2012).

Away we Go

How could anyone not love these characters?

And from what I have read online, people found the protagonists of this film to be “aloof” or even “smug”. I couldn’t disagree more vehemently. For starters, how can someone not love John Krasinski? It confounds me. That face and those eyes and that smile makes me connect with him no matter what and he is not playing some elite douche-bag who for all intents and purposes could be a sociopath as most of the other protagonists are; the irony being that we still love them, I believe we do so because we all want to be those larger than life characters who scale a building by the day and fight the Rock by the night to save that damsel in distress who goes on- just for feminism’s sake- to say that she needs no saving. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, escapism is as essential to the soul as a good Catharsis.

Yes, I do agree that we generally go to the movies to forget about our monotonous lives and the bleak reality but is it not the purpose of art to show us the mirror and teach us a little nobility? Why do we keep looking for one-dimensional characters with the perfect teeth and a don’t-give-a-f attitude?

Sam Mendes is an absolute genius and he understands the drive of the characters of his movie like no one else and it has always been evident but this film somehow changes the way he approaches these characters and unlike most of his other films, this one doesn’t have a bittersweet ending. And that works wonders for this film as it’s about a couple’s journey to figure out just what it is that they want to grow into.

Talking about ‘Away We Go’, Mendes said “All my films are linked by similar concerns, if you look below the surface. They’re all about one or more people who are lost and trying to find a way through. It’s no different with this one, it just happens that they do find a way through.”

‘Finding a way’, is that not what we are all looking for? Not matter who we are or what we are doing, we are all just as perplexed about what’s coming next and how to move beyond that.

“Well I have been quietly standing in the shade

All of my days

Watch the sky breaking on the promise that we made

All of this rain”

It being a pseudo-road-trip movie, there are quite a few shots of awe-inspiring scenery. It always amazes me how the car and the road or the river and the raft (Huck Finn, anyone?) or even a train can illustrate such a strong allegory for freedom.

On their way, they meet a few couples and they realize just how often things can go wrong. But they have not given up on love and perhaps they can still carve an island in time and call it their home where the outside world won’t be able to touch them.

“Well many a night I found myself with no friends standing near

All of my days

I cried aloud

I shook my hands

What am I doing here

All of these days”

While the film doesn’t have an original score, it does feature some great songs with ‘All my days’ by Alexi Murdoch being the one that I still find myself humming every so often. Oh and ‘Hey Mr. Tambourine Man’ always makes me appreciate folk-rock.

“For I look around me

And my eyes confound me

And it’s just too bright

As the days keep turning into night”

And then there’s Burt’s brother in Miami whose wife abandoned him out of the blue leaving him to care for his daughter all by himself. What if it happens to you? I don’t suppose anyone thinks love through, I guess it is but an instinct but then what do I know! So, what if you go crazy or realize that you have just been going through the motions? How will that affect a child? And what about the other person. You see humans are like dogs, you knock them around enough, they’ll think they did something to deserve it.

“Oh tell me, what is my life without your love
Tell me who am I without you by my side?”

When they get to the house of thier college friends, Verona exclaims “Holy Shit! We went to college with these guys. How can they be so grown up? While we are so…” and Burt fills in, “Stunted? Confused? Immature?”

“Come on, lets go be psychos together” – Sam, The Perks of being a wallflower

Perhaps they do live inside a bubble of their own devising and are unlike most of us but aren’t they just what we all like to think we could be had it not been for the *insert your own demons here…it could be that desk job of yours or the parents or some other made up problem*.

“Now I see clearly

It’s you I’m looking for

All of my days

Soon I’ll smile

I know I’ll feel this loneliness no more

All of my days

For I look around me

And it seems you’ve found me

And it’s coming into sight

As the days keep turning into night”

Verona:  What are we gonna do?
Burt: How do you mean?
Verona: No one’s in love like us, right? It’s so weird. What are we gonna do?
Burt: I think we just gotta ride it out.

A home can be a shed in the middle of nowhere or a RV coasting through the south of France or a raft on the Mississipi, all it takes is love.

“Now even breathing feels all right.”