Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Hurt Locker" - An interview with Writer/Producer Mark Boal

If you caught the Oscars a week ago, you saw Mark Boal pick up the Academy Award for writing "The Hurt Locker". Be sure to check out the videos of him answering questions from the StoryLink Community shortly before his big win:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Backwards World?

By Anant Mathur (17 March 2010)

This week I want to write about a thought that came into my mind a while ago when I was thinking about how backwards the world we live in is.

Think about all that we go through in life and then we end up being 60 or 70 years old and are unable to enjoy anything. We have finally reached the pinnacle of life and have the means to do whatever we want and nothing needs to be done. The children are all grown up, house is paid for, there’s a BMW parked in the driveway. All we can do is find new ways of spending our salaries or pensions.

For most of us, life goes something like this…

  1. We’re born
  2. We go to school and get an education.
  3. After we graduate we look for a job
  4. Once a job is secured we find that perfect mate (if we haven’t already) and get married.
  5. Then we have children.
  6. We help our children get the best possible education so they can get a great job.
  7. Once our kids find a great job, they leave the nest and start the cycle again or we live with them through their cycle until we’re dead.

But throughout this cycle there are a lot of heartaches and pain, the number one problem being that we never seem to have enough money to pay for the needs of our children. And I think the system is to blame for that.

The way I see it, the system needs to change, instead of getting a low income when we’re in our 20s and it gradually going up as we’re promoted and get older, wouldn’t it make more sense if we get paid a higher income in our 20s and we can save for the future instead of struggle through life. Think about it, why do we need to be paid $150,000 in our 60s? When our kids have left or are working and the only person we have to support is our spouse.

We start out in our 20s making, let’s say, approximately $25000 or so per year. Part of that goes for the student loan(s) we took out to complete our education, some goes towards that piece of junk parked in the driveway, majority of it goes towards rent and groceries, and if there’s anything left over we might go grab a beer with our friends and bitch about how we hate our job, our boss and how underpaid we are.

So, wouldn’t it make more sense to be making $150,000 (per year) when we’re in our 20s, we can enjoy spending time with our kids without the worry of how we will pay for their Braces, Piano Lessons, iPod, xBox, or in certain cases that operation they really need. We'll have no worries about mortgage payments, and we can drive a BMW while we're young, instead of when we're in our 60s and too afraid to go fast. And as we get older we have money saved, so we can start getting paid less. In our 30s we make an average of $100,000 per year. In our 40s we make $70, 000, and $50,000 in our 50’s. By the time we make it to our 60s the average yearly income drops to $30,000 or $25,000. Then when we retire, we get our pensions, the same as in the other system. Doesn't that seem like a more interesting approach to how we should be living?

But the way we’re brainwashed into life, people will wonder what the hell is wrong with me. They want to get paid more not less as they progress through life and work harder and harder. But to them I say… wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where we felt like we belonged instead of strugglin’ and bitchin’ our way through life?

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Avatar is weak to say the least!

By Anant Mathur (March 06, 2010)

Normally this blog is meant for Bollywood topics, but I couldn't resist taking this opportunity to talk about a film that has broken records and wooed the world over.

Most of the times before a movie is even released, I can tell by watching a trailer, how good or bad a film is going to be. And after watching the trailer for Avatar, the first thought was, “I can’t believe James Cameron made this. It looks horrible.”
But something strange happened - once the film was released it became an instant hit with the audience. Even the critics were giving it 5/5 or 10/10, calling it a must see or the greatest thing in modern era of filmmaking. Some even called it the future of movies. So, after hearing so much about it for weeks, I finally decided to see Avatar - the highest grossing film ever.

I have enjoyed more than a few James Cameron films over the years. Terminator is a work of sci-fi genius. Abyss created an interesting world and was filled with tension. Terminator 2 is an action masterpiece and has what I believe to be the best special effects of all time. Even Titanic was far better than I expected it to be and has one of the most beloved romances in a movie.

So after 12 years it would not be an overstatement to expect an outstanding James Cameron film. Still, even after hearing so much about Avatar, I wasn’t too excited about watching it. So going into it, I had very low expectations, and you would think that by the end of Avatar I would be feeling a little higher than when it started. Sadly, it wasn’t so. I was very disappointed with the film.

The biggest problem I have with Avatar is that it lacks creativity. It is literally Dances with Wolves in space. There’s nothing wrong with taking an idea and remaking it, Hollywood recycles old ideas all the time. Remaking Ben-Hur with color and sound makes sense, but why do we need Dances with Wolves with 15 times the budget and blue Native Americans? No amount of special effects, robots, battleships and CGI characters can change the fact that this story has been told hundreds of times before and all those versions are much better than this. The film not only lacks soul but has no humour what so ever, a surprise considering Cameron’s previous works use humour as a great tool.

As far as the 3D goes, I mean what was the point. This is not a film that is required to be seen in 3D. Films like Spy Kids 3 and Shark Boy and Lava Girl are great in 3D but in Avatar 3D is wasted. You don’t even notice the 3D in Avatar and the 3D goggles become a nuisance. 3D doesn’t make this film any better or any worse, just more expensive. If expensive motion-capture used to cover up a thin storyline is the future of cinema then the future seems very bleak.

Like most movies these days Avatar is way too long, glossing the details (why the Earth is dying, what Unobtainium does, etc) and instead spending time on flight scenes, enchanting ceremonies, spirit trees and bonding with nature.

The research is very pathetic in this film (not something I’d expect from a James Cameron film, since research is usually very good in his films). In Avatar, we’re told Unobtainium is supposed to be mined underground - below the trees? As far as I know there are two types of mining, Surface mining and Sub-Surface mining. In surface mining you destroy vegetation and dirt in order to reach buried deposits. In sub-surface mining (which is what they seem to be talking about in Avatar) you dig tunnels or shafts into the earth to reach buried deposits. So if they’re talking about sub-surface mining then what’s with destroying the trees? There’s no need for that. Also, the story goes completely away from obtaining unobtanium to a killing spree for no apparent reason whatsoever!

I’m very disappointed with the number of 10/10 reviews the film is getting. It only shows that people have no idea what a good story is these days, they’re only interested in eye candy and Avatar has plenty of that. The story is so predicable it’s depressing to know James Cameron thought this was a good idea. Dances with Wolves isn’t the only film Avatar borrows from, perhaps a more accurate example would be Enemy Mine (1985) or Pocahontas (1995). The battle between Humans and Aliens (and the chosen one saving the day) has been around for decades and makes the ending very predictable. The script is so weak at times it feels like it was written by monkeys. The dialogue is so bad it forces you to raise your palm to your face in disgust. If anything this film lowers the intellect of the audience. The aliens win the final battle and the lead character is amalgamated into one of them, ooh big surprise there!

It’s heartbreaking to know that most of the 10/10 reviews for Avatar are based on Visual Effects. In my opinion, the visual effects are alright, I don’t think they’re as mind boggling as they’re being made out to be. Very few VFX movies have the kind of effects that can stand the test of time, the one exception being Terminator 2, even today they look fresh. The bottom line is, in 20 years, the visual effects of Avatar won’t be talked about. If you have ever played any computer games you will agree that several things have been taken out of PC games, like Command and Conquer, Heroes of Might and Magic, Warcraft, etc. Basing reviews solely on visual effects is just so wrong.

I don’t really care if people continue to make mindless movies like Avatar, that’s just fine, everyone has a right to make what they want. But please don’t make them out to be the greatest thing ever, when they truly are not! Avatar doesn’t even belong in the top 1000 films of all time, let alone being the highest grossing film of all time. I saw this film because of what everyone was saying about it. I should have stuck to my guns and gone with what I said after watching the trailer and not seen it. If you haven't seen it, consider yourselves lucky. If you have, please don't recommend this film to anyone based on the Visual Effects.

And that's all I have to say about it!

Avatar is weak to say the least! (Part 2)
By Anant Mathur (March 08, 2010)

Well the proof is in the pudding as they say!

Last night at the 82nd Academy Awards (The Oscars), Avatar, which was nominated for 9 Oscars, got snubbed big time; receiving only 3 awards and those too in the visual category (Art Direction, Cinematography & Visual Effects). This just proves the point I was trying to make, Avatar is just eye candy, good visually but no soul. Not surprising that the film wasn't nominated for any of the awards in the acting or writing categories. Just the mere fact that it didn't even win any awards for sound should tell you how unimportant Avatar is!

By the end of the night, it was almost a certainty that Avatar wasn't going to win for Direction or Best Picture, both of which went to The Hurt Locker along with the sound editing, sound mixing, film editing and Original Screenplay awards. Sandra Bullock received Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side and Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for Crazy Heart. Mo'Nique won Best supporting Actress for Oprah's Precious which also received the Best Adapted Screenplay award. The other top award for Best Supporting Actor went to Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds (a film I believe is at least 100 better than Avatar and only received one award because The Hurt Locker received the other 6 it was nominated for).

It's good to see that the folks at the Academy Awards got away from the popularity of the big budget blockbuster films to determine the awards and decided to give the important awards to lower budget films like The Hurt Locker, Crazy Heart, The Blind Side and Precious, which in my opinion truly deserve it over an unoriginal piece of crap like Avatar.

Congratulations, Kathryn Bigelow for becoming the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar!

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.