In Search of Redemption

The first post is usually the hardest. But here goes;

It would be an understatement to say that “I love movies!”
Somewhere at home, buried deep beside the past is a photograph taken when I was a child. A somber, round-faced little boy gazes up at the camera wondering at the magic of a moment captured. Probably the first moment a strange dream settled on me. And now, as I look at him and as I think more deeply about the mystery of the passage of time, I feel a sense of awe. I don’t even remember the first movie that I ever saw, but I do remember that my father used to take me to the movies or the theater at least once every week. For me, those times were more than just escapism and more than just having fun. For me each film or play told me finite stories with infinite promise.

I am by no means someone who likes to thump the present for the past. But when I say that films made today pale against those of the yesteryear's, it’s only because I refuse to be tied down to the absolute banal and formulaic popcorn culture that spits out movie after movie based on the whim of a few men who rather have a nice balance sheet than preserve any artistic authenticity or class. Turns out, those major league studios are completely subjugated by the belief that money can buy them out of their own crap and justify anything. Bear with me here, I do enjoy a few “mindless” flicks here and there and am in no way against the mass studios productions but I absolutely hate it when they take my intelligence and understanding for granted. I am a firm believer in intent and sadly that’s one of the many things lacking from today’s misplaced silver screen debuts. But, at the same time, it would also be monumentally unfair to the very few who do believe in their work and spend years to see the realization of their dream hit the light.

I have argued this before, many times, and there always have been someone with a misplaced sense of hurt accusing me of being an “elitist critic” (I am not) who is “out of touch” (with what! my brain?) or that I am “too old to understand this generation (I love this one as I am barely past 26). But seriously, am I out of touch? Or am I just a little too much in touch with what I want? Forgive me if my likes do not reflect the latest box office taste and for not being uncritical and thoughtlessly accepting everything that’s shoved down my throat. And don’t give me that “it’s just my opinion” crap ‘cos it matters and sometimes you can be wrong.

This is also not to say that the best movies are the ones that try to be too "realistic" or those that confine to the “art” status or the ones that most people can’t understand and consider dull and lifeless. As I see it, movies, regardless of being good or bad, reveals to us some measure the visible and invisible nature of our hopes, our fears, our dreams and everything that falls in between. Even the ones that I consider bad can do this, indulging our unspoken lusts but the best movies go beyond that and meet us where we are - engaging our hearts and minds. They appear so natural and so matter-of-fact that it does not necessarily force contextual change or a change in our perception of reality based on deliberate habituation. It is uniquely fulfilling to witness the skilled manipulation of frames that contain the irrationality of a setting which tenderly unites the real and the imagined converting recognizable scenes to surreal outlines. As the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, put it “Before familiarity can turn into awareness, the familiar must be stripped of its inconspicuousness; we must give up assuming that the object in question needs no explanation.”

Back when I was working as the editor of a magazine, I was invited to the premiere of a movie and I had the pleasure of talking to the director for an extended period of time. He wasn't too pleased with his work because, as he said, the studio demanded that at least fifty percent of the movie be along the lines of a previously successful movie. The movie went on to be a mild success (meaning they got some money back and pretty much nothing else). More disappointing was his claim that there is vulgar disparity towards the intelligent folks. For some reason being educated was considered some kind of stigma only worthy of concealment. He also mentioned that, today schools weren't about learning but more about piling up achievements that look good and by that what we are getting is a bunch of outcome-oriented people. But thinking on a bigger scale, what we are loosing are the dreamers, the free thinkers and the innovators sidelining us to become someone whose identity is based on mundane text and preconceived ideas. Which, in-effect would describe the decline of an industry that is based on the notion that life is grand even while you are loosing out.

No, I am not succumbing to my own arrogance. We will talk about that as we go ahead and you will probably learn to hate me more.


kay said...

Abhay, thanks for the mail.....and good to know you are back.
Also good to see you havent lost any of your old habits.

Anonymous said...

You won't change will you?
I love all movies and reading this makes me feel bad for liking some of the movies I like, like Transformers. Why are you doing this... damn it!
Don't just dissapear like you did last time, and yes I forgive you.

To new beginnings.....

Maddy said...

I believe the complete Bertolt quote is "Before familiarity can turn into awareness the familiar must be stripped of its inconspicuousness; we must give up assuming that the object in question needs no explanation. However frequently recurrent, modest, vulgar it may be it will now be labelled as something unusual." Cutting off that last line was clever.

You should also understand that people watch movies for different reasons, but it is also true that there needs to be a line drawn.
I loved that part where you wrote we are loosing our dreamers and the people who think beyond the pale. Sadly thats not the case with just one country or region, its like a global epidemic. Sly of you to connect that with cinema... but I don't agree with that.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. I was having a bad day.... this just made it worse.

Anonymous said...

I also love movies. Tamil movies and I can also say that there are good and bad movies. And sometimes you like some bad movies but the good movies are always good even if you not like them.

Nancy said...

Been a long time since I read an intelligent post that reflects exactly what I feel. I know we can't forever keep saying that what we get today is crap, but like you said someone has to and that sometimes what we know can be wrong.

I have to say that when I started reading this, I though you were just another guy grumbling about movies and how bad they are. But I believe I may have judged too soon. Also completely agree that the best movies engage us beyond just a happy thought or a sad tear. They make us think. And there are also very painful movies to watch as you can identify exactly with a situation and you know how hard it is to relive that all over again. One such movie is 'Moonlight' and I was stunned.

I have never heard of Beltolt, but I guess what you are trying to say though him is that we shouldn't loose our sense of amazement at anything. An essential conflict? Would we have the joyous feeling of freedom (from films that show redemption) if the chance of absolute wreckage(we all have been there - at the bottom) weren't real? I don't think so.

I like your kind of intellectualism (if you can call it that). Thanks for sending me the link. Will definitely keep an eye on you.
Is this your only blog? And how come you have never written before (since you say this is your first post) if you can write so well?

Vinu Thammanath said...

Too "intellectualistic" for me to comment! I can't handle least for this time....since its the first one...I'll comment when i get used to it.


Abhay said...

Kay and Daylen - Thanks for the support. Hoping to stay this time.

Maddy - Yes, that is the entire quote. But I thought the second part was a little too explanatory for some reason.
The linking of it with education was simply to illustrate the point I was making.

Nancy - Thank You. And yes that is a part of what I meant. One of Bertolt's theory proposes that instead of the viewer identifying with the scene he / she should take (or be lead to take) a more critical view or approach which would then enable him / her to think on a level otherwise disregarded though a personal approach.
Thank you, for your kind words and for following the link.
I used to write before but had to take most of it down due to "copyright" issues.

Vinu - Thanks mate. Hope you get used to it soon.

Nancy said...

I followed up a little on Bertolt after reading your post and can't believe the things that you learn.
Anyway, good luck and you got a fan in me. ;)

nothing profound said...

Abhay-very passionate and well-written. Your zeal reminds me of that of the Cahiers group in France who ushered in the new cinema of the 60s. There's a lot of good stuff out there, but you have to winnow it out from the purely commercial fare. Have you seen Suzanne Bier's films? I like her work very much. I was a big movie fan when I was younger but not so much anymore. Images interest me a lot less than real things.

Hossam REFFAT said...

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Zindagi said...

very informative and nice blog ! really good to see.

Ingrid said...

Hey! :) Congratulations on your first post, and yes I do agree, the first one is ALWAYS the hardest, but now every other post will go even smoother and faster, and in no time you will be surfing the high tides of blogging.

WOW :D hahaha..

anyways, yes I do feel the same way about what you said about movies, and the movie industry today. There is so much garbage out there that people consume and feel proud to do it.. EVERY SINGLE DAY.

It's like brainwashing. And me witnessing it and not really being able to do anything.. makes me sad.

There are so many great movies out there, which have been seen by only some people, yet are so beautifully artistic and challenging.

I could go on and on and on about it..

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Take care,

estafema said...

Hey! I finally found your comment section. Just wanna say this is a nice post. I love movies too. During old times, I used to go to the cinemas at least twice a week. Today, I go once in 2 weeks.

Keep up.

Abhay said...

Very sorry for the late reply guys. Got caught up in some work.

Nancy - Wow! Thanks. That is indeed something.

nothing profound - You are absolutely right. I guess knowing and finding the good ones is the toughest part. I have only seen one movie by Susanne Bier, that too after reading an article in the nytimes. I am trying to find more movies by her, but its pretty hard to come by here.
And I guess sometimes images represent the real things. Just give it a chance.

Zindagi - Thank you. And same goes for you.

Ingrid - Not being able to do anything is my problem too. But hopefully that will change soon.

estafema - Thanks for the comment. And I think that is something shared by lots of people.

Nathalie said...

I totally agree with you that intent is something that is sadly missing these days. And it can make a helluva difference.

And great first post. Keep it up Abhay.

iliketo said...

Nice post, its a very interesting read.

Al said...

its true that many new movies arent worth the time you spend on'em.... but i guess thats what a lot of'em like.....
but good post...

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

Love the post - but a little hint : post often :)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found your blog...I love the way you write and your post is really well thought out.

I am mad about Movies and I find it really painful to see these run of the mill movies do well while the really good movies get ignored. Movies made for the masses are the kind of movies I never watch.

Anonymous said...

Wow, two thumbs up on your views and for your blog! Will be checking back here for sure.
Keep Blogging!

Abhay said...

@ Nathalie and iliketo - Thank You guys. Trying to do my best.

@ Al - Yes a lot of them does not justify the time we spend on them 'cos they are simply horrible. But again that comes down to that person. A lot of people would like a movie that I might not even give a second glance. Doesn't mean they are wrong or that I am right. I just like to have a little "quality" in whatever I see.
And well, like I told you in that mail, some people did take offense 'cos they thought I was taking the high road (??). All I can say is sometimes, some will agree and some don't. So be it. No apologies for what I wrote.

@ Alpha Buttonpusher - Thanks mate! Definitely trying to post more and more often too. But right now the ideas are a little slow in showing up. :)

@ kasabiangirl - Thank You so much. Am glad you found it. :D Yeah it's sad to see the well made ones go down while the lesser ones do better in terms of business. I guess that's where we come in. Spread the word and not get bogged down by the flavor of the week.

@ tinylittlethoughts - Thank You. And will do.

maglomaniac said...

Hi Abhay,
Yes,the 1st post generally seems to be the hardest somewhere brimming up the expectations galore.
But you pulled it all rather well.
I agree with you that creative freedom is hindered by the investors need for stereotypical formulaic success.A line needs to be drawn at that.and yes when we have a critical view that generally becomes the scorn of public's taste.
I felt you as a seasoned writer.Don't know why but it seemed as you are already a Pro at blogs.Might be your long list of followers.
Well,it was wonderful going through things in your head.
Do visit me:

I am looking forward for an exchange of ideas with you


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Shikha Khandelwal said...

Movies in India have mostly been Larger than Life!!!!
tryin to be entertainin as per the definition of some ppl bettin their monies on it....
the psychology of being in the denial mode, preachy idealistic stuff being grossly misjudged as realistic.... affect our film makers imagination & financial acumen more I guess....

Abhay said...

My apologies for the very late reply.

@ maglomaniac : Hey Harsha, it took me a while to finish the first post. And yes sometimes having a critical view makes you the target for shooting practice. I wouldn't say I am a seasoned writer, but I do like to write well. ;) I am thankful to all the people who are following me, just hope I can make better posts. Will definitely look into your blog and am always up for an exchange of idea. :)

@ Nature Lovers : Seriously mate!

@ Shikha Khandelwal : I do not agree that our movies have always been larger that life. I also don't have a problem with movies being larger that life as long as they are well made. I guess everybody has their own definition of "well made", but still. I agree when you say that sometimes preachy is misjudged as realistic or even artistic and it might affect their reasoning. I guess we just need better film makers and thinkers.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I have never read such a succinct account of something as wonderful as movies.

But yes, today the commercial film makers face pressures so as to make a film that is "successful" rather than delivering a film that has "quality", although, "quality" is different for different people, but still.

Also, I was hoping to put a link to this article you wrote, on my blog, if only you approve. I would like to read it again in the future. :)


Abhay said...

Hey ~
Thank You for your kind words. Yes quality is different for different people, but still I don't think many people would associate quality with many of the movies made today. I would even say that the so called "B" movies of the past are better than the mainstream movies that are there today.
Movies were made with a purpose, even if it was to make money, the makers would actually take pains to ensure that whoever saw won't be disappointed. I guess the "anything goes" culture needs to be seriously shown it's place. In the trash.

I would love to have my link on your page. Thank you so much.