Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

So, Where is Subramaniapuram?

I saw a five-minute clipping of 'Subramaniapuram'. I don't know any of the faces. But the whiff is so strong. And then I saw the song 'Kangal Irandal' from the movie on Youtube. His get up was reminiscent of 'Sathya's Kamal and her beauty & mannerisms 'Sathya's Amala. The direction is so fluent, a little cinematic here & there, but I just simply loved. I last time I loved a song (music & picturization) on my first hearing was 'Urugudhe' from Veyil.

Can anyone update me on how the movie is, how its doing commercially?

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The Dark Knight

I've read so much about this movie that it almost feels like I can't bring in a fresh perspective to write a few words that I can actually claim to be mine. And I usually don't do that much reading unless I've written about it. The feeling is more like the cliche: what can I say that hasn't been said before. Now I join the chorus, but still desperately trying to be singled out.

'The Dark Knight' is not a masterpiece; it has its sagging moments, cheesy dialogues and a few questionable screenplay decisions. But the sense of satisfaction it provides when walking out of the theater is wholesome. And there are not many movies that make me feel that way. I recently saw 'Wall-E' and found it preachy and sermonizing (critics hailed that & the viewers got it to IMDb top 50). I saw another summer superhero in 'Hancock'. This was supposed to be a fun popcorn flick but the execution, lack of a flowing screenplay and an abominable climax made me throw up all the popcorn. I saw 'Usual Suspects' on video (another IMDb top 50) and hated the last minute twist because I was expecting it. Let's forget that Christopher Nolan's 'Dark Knight' is currently occupying the top spot on many lists. Numbers don't matter if the movie doesn't strike a chord.

The Nolans (Christopher & Jonathan, the writers) have spent much time in developing character arcs of the main cast, which seem a rarity in the superhero genre, most of which seem to leverage the skillset of the special effects department to hold the attention of viewers. In fact, that's one of the good things about this movie - there are no super super-effects. When Batman tries to save his love interest Rachel from falling off a building, he doesn't do it with grace & style but with a sense of clumsiness associated with an emotionally frantic situation. But you don't get any points for guessing who has loads of style & crooked charisma in this production. The Joker.

The battle between the hero and the villain is interesting because the hero is willing to bend his moral standards for the good of Gotham city and the villain has no moral standards at all. The Joker doesn't have a plan, he doesn't scheme. He just wants chaos to rule. Would he derive happiness in a chaotic world? Somehow, I can't visualize a 'happy' Joker. For him, blasting a hospital is the equivalent of sensual gratification, like masturbation. He'll do it again just because the pleasure has withered off. But his 'higher' objective is to see Batman off his mask. Now this would be close to a 'happy' Joker because of the efforts involved. Heath Ledger as the Joker does a great job. Like any good actor, he conveys a lot without saying a single word. His eyes, wonderfully expressive here, just made me fall in love with his acting prowess. Ledger is lost, but the Joker lives on.

Christian Bale as Batman delivers such a finely controlled performance. In a tight-call situation, he chooses someone over his ex lover because he believes that saving that person could really take a shot at reclaiming Gotham from the goons. A magnificently morally upright decision on the part of a superhero. But when he's driven to his limits, he uses technology to spy on the whole city to locate the Joker. (The US government is in a similar crossroads). He appears to justify his acts of invasion, vigilantism as the price the public has to pay for their safety. (Again, there are many real world parallels). The moral swing is subtly but very well portrayed by Bale but the real applause here is for the screenwriters for realizing a human-like character out of a superhero.

Here is a good story told very well, but it fits a template expected of such movies. The screenplay provides enough time for the sub-plots to mature (which results in a long running time). Most of the dialogues are solid & serious. In spite of having a Joker, there aren't many laughs. He does a trick too, but not funny: he says that he'll disappear a pencil and the next moment he drives into someone's skin. I was half-tempted to laugh, involuntarily. And the way one plot leads to another, supported by good actors and good dialogues gradually builds up the vastness of the movie. The story telling is epic-like and the performances and execution are epic-like, but the movie isn't an epic.

Talking of epics, there's an epic scale in the wide shots of Gotham (Chicago actually). Mostly dark and with too many glass doors and windows, the cinematographer Wally Pfister brings out the darkness in every one. As if he isn't enough, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, the musicians, inject a sense of immediacy fused with uncertainty with their white noise score. Another top work behind the camera belongs to Christopher Nolan for his consistent direction. The tone he sets up never wavers, with most of the 152 dense minutes gripping the audience. Andrew Sarris said that he's put to rest his doubts about Nolan's talent. If Sarris himself doesn't question, who am I?

Let me get back to the Joker. What's really scary about him is his ability to turn a do-gooder into do-badder. Someone who is praised as the white kinght is forced to become a dark.... well, let me say a bad man. And the movie captures his moral transformation with such power that it left me wondering if Batman himself is immune as his sense of morality is already lopsided. The movie offers a lot of moments to ponder & discuss not to mention the artistic & technical feats which are second to none. I solidly recommend this, if you love serious movies.

A friend remarked that this isn't worth being at the No.1 in the list of top 250 movies in IMDb. All I can say is that everybody has their own list.

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The Dark Knight, Coming Soon

The most commonly asked question: Is this the best superhero movie ever made? I don't know, I haven't seen them all. But this is the best I've seen. This is not popcorn superhero flick where the dad accompanies the kid so that the kid has a good time. This is powerful drama narrated by a very talented story teller employing artsistes and technicians whose works have blended so seamlessly to create a near masterpiece. In a sea of wonderful performances by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart & Maggie Gyllenhaal there is one performance that totally blew me away - Heath Ledger's Joker is the role of the year and he delivers that in the movie of the year. I know that to call 'The Dark Knight' the best movie of the year even before the beginning of the Oscar season is a bit far-fetched and may strike as even arrogant on my part. Only if you haven't seen it yet. If another production can eclipse the Knight this year, then 2008 will be remembered for two great movies, not just one. More on this movie this weekend.

Talk about hype

Dark Knight, released yesterday, is already at spot 3 in the top 250 IMDb list. And most of the critics agree that the hype is justified. I'm planning to visit a theater nearby in the next 24 hours and record my thoughts here.