Why You Should Never Stop Watching Films

Source: Universal Pictures/Working Title Films/Mike Zoss Productions

In this past year, I have kept myself busy with a lot of work after a shattering episode of depression just about this time of the year last year. But while you are at work every day, especially in full employment where you leave your place to spend time in an office, you tend to lose perspective. You tend to forget about your mental growth, about your physical well being, and even your perspective about the bigger picture. About life.

While there are things that you are never going to fix, or can fix, which are lost with time. Second by second. There is no turning back from there. You could at least get your focus right. You could at least slap your face and wake yourself up from the slumber and start paying attention to the things that matter. Now there are plenty, not just limited to human relations. But one of them is your appreciation of art, literature, and cinema.

And especially when you are put off by the sort of films that are coming out. So while I cannot believe that audiences have rejected “Hail Caeser! (2016)” of the ever-magnificent Coen Brothers and rather watched X:Men Apocalypse and Deadpool, it only increases my appreciation for things that I admire. It tells you that cinema is still alive.

Haha, there was a time when I said to my friend Faheem Zafar who had introduced me to such great cinema that I was afraid one day we would run out of films to watch. He laughed off my comment and rightly so as I hardly watch a film anymore until in the recent days. But it is true in a way because I am pretty much out of anymore Bunuel or Fellini films to watch. That is all what matters.

Now these works of art (if you can call them that) inspired you to be a filmmaker when you were young. When you grow up and enter the industry one way or another, you wonder if you are really all that into it. Even if you don’t want to, or cannot, do anything else.  And you wonder if you can really keep up.

But what we forget at those times is that it is telling your personal expression which was once the dearest to us. We are here because we wanted to tell our -stories, even when we are not able to. Because we are telling stories in some form. Even if it is someone else’s story.

So when you are putting on thick armor around your skin to survive, it is important not to forget to live the way you did when those moments of inspiration struck you. Those moments of inspiration that set your sail this way.

It is very important that you should not stop watching films. Or even reading books.

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The One Role I Would Have Loved Robin Williams to Play

Source: grio.com

Source: grio.com

I could not possibly have been more devastated to hear any news from Hollywood than the death of Robin Williams.

I always anticipated this day with dread and anxiety. But I never imagined it would be upon us this soon. This soon.

August 10, 2014.

Heartbreak.

Well now that he’s dead, I can’t meet him. Lucky folks like Michael Dare have, but he’s a star himself. To me, at least. Oh well, there goes one more item off my bucket list.

But I hope he would be in great peace, if only oblivion and non existence, unlike the predicament as in What Dreams May Come. I just watched that film right after his death and you can’t begin to imagine how ironically overwhelming that was. I guess you can.

But what I greatly respect him for is that he committed suicide. An intellectual act that I have great respect and sympathy for. Even though it may not have been planned in this case. Even though it is largely maligned and even Robin’s case was encountered with malicious and insensitive comments.

And for those who say that suicide is selfish, so be it. Selfish is not necessarily bad or evil. Everybody is selfish. Love is selfish.

But speaking of suicide, for years, I have been longing to see him in one role. A role that personally fascinates me like very few others.

The role of Do. The role of Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A shocking piece of news that hit the world in March 1997, right at the time when the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet was kissing our South Western skies.

OK, now, I am not pretending that I am a filmmaker, though I write scripts, but let’s assume for a minute that I am. Or perhaps even a financier, or just somebody who is working chores for the production company. But somebody involved in the production.

Now I would have loved to be a part of the production in some way.

I would have at least loved to watch that film. But that opportunity is lost forever.

So many losses to mourn.

I believe suicides are largely misunderstood, but Marshall Applewhite’s was a special one. His cult adds just so much more mystery to it, which makes for a great story that the world needs to know. No matter how distant and detached its portrayal may be.

I bet a lot of kids born in the new millenium haven’t even heard of it.

I know a lot of you would call, or at least consider, me a dick for putting Marshall Applewhite in for what looks more or less like a eulogy post for Robin Williams. But I am actually so overwhelmed by this that this is all what I can sincerely write about.

I used to watch Applewhite’s or Do’s video for hours. And there is something about his eyes that mesmerized you. And just like everyone who likes to tell stories, I thought. Hey, this would make a great movie.

The next logical question was who could actually play Applewhite.

Well, who better than Robin Williams. The man who can play anyone and anything.

He actually would have been my first choice to play Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and it is said that he was considered. But given the physical likeness, probably we were better off with Geoffrey Rush playing him. Another very talented actor.

Source: morthings.com/news.com

Source: morthings.com/news.com

But long story short, Robin Williams is just perfect to play him.

Considering how most people consider Applewhite a fanatic, no, this is not meant to be a satire or a comedy. It is supposed to be a biopic drama. And if you think Applewhite’s life was funny, well good luck.

Where is the compassion?

But I am not ashamed to say I am sympathetic of Marshall Applewhite, despite he can arguably be charged for murder of other followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult. But what a fascinating cult. As intellectual in a way, as it was delusional.

But Robin Williams could have so perfectly captured the emotional personality of Do. at least he would have been successful able to emanate the vibe of the charismatic cult leader. Only he could have done it so perfectly.

Recall Robin Williams playing Sy Parrish in One Hour Photo? One of his most dazzling and darker films in recent years. I won’t say it would convince you, but it can actually tell you of the great versatility of his acting talent. And that he was perfect for the role.

Hell, he was perfect for any role.

So I mourn, and become teary eyed, not just because we have lost Robin Williams. I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

Some idiot had complained about how mourning on social media was actually about the people themselves. Of course, it is. The mourning is about us. We have lost Robin Williams. He is dead. He is happy. Hopefully.

Again, I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

I found Bicentennial Man too heavy to watch. Is there a darker, sadder film with someone funny in it? Even fun films such as Jumanji have that emotional bittersweet value that you can’t separate your childhood from it.

But you can’t stop adoring his films.

I love Robin Williams the revolutionary in Good Morning VietnamPatch Adams and Dead Poet’s Society. I love Robin Williams the psychotic in Insomnia and One Hour Photo too. And even more so the ascetic lover in The Fisher King. Oscar anyone?

And of course, everybody loves Mrs. Doubtfire.

Can anyone possibly hate him? I guess there are a few nuts.

RIP Robin Williams.

Certainly the greatest actor of our times.

Not Glorifying Guns Anymore

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

It has been a couple of weeks, but I have been meaning to write this about Harvey Weinstein’s interview with my most favorite radio personality on Earth, Howard Stern. Now Howard has this way which makes it comfortable for people to talk to him. I mean if you are looking for a person who you would have Hillary Clinton talk to about her first orgasm, he is what you are looking for.

I am not going to put down the transcript, you can listen to the interview embedded below, but here is what he said. He said that he should not be saying this (rightly so), but he was going to do a film after which the NRA would wish they were not alive. Now curiously, Howard asked him, is it a documentary, which to me, makes the entire point of this post, that I am going to make rather more vulgarly and explicitly.

In another absolutely stupid, and even worse statement later, he claimed that he would not be producing films glorifying guns anymore. Even worse he agreed with his right wing critics. (Oh, there goes the Warsaw ghetto uprising project out of the window, not!)

What?

What does a film producer look like when he turns into a political activist?

A lot of conservative pro-gun commentators have criticized him for this statement, which I respect, with Sen. Ted Cruz even calling him a hypocrite (a bit too harsh in my opinion), but my problem with it is for a different reason.

It does not matter to me if Harvey is pro or anti gun. I don’t give a fuck about that. My problem is that he is making a film to send out this anti gun message. I am just curious how he would do that.

And I am a little disappointed because I am a huge fan of the wonderful films he has produced over the years. I wouldn’t write this if I were not. I have tremendous respect for Weinstein and I know my opinion probably does not even matter here, but here is what I think about it.

I just don’t like hearing those words from a man who knows so much about making films. But perhaps he just went with it in the whim of the moment though his later statement suggested otherwise, but as much as I respect him, my respect for him as an artist has gone way down. Though I hate to even admit it to myself.

Let’s just say I disagree. He said he should not be saying this, but now I am rather glad he did. Things like these should ruin a filmmaker’s reputation, but people don’t pay attention.

Now here is this fine line. Telling a story does not necessarily exclude it from being propaganda. And full of reinforcement of political views. You know, 12 Angry Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Dead Man Walking, All Quiet on the Western Front, Lincoln, Delta Force, the list goes on and on. And I admit, that film has historically always been at the heart of political propaganda, but I deeply despise and detest that. I simply cannot respect that as someone who writes stories myself, no mater how much I persuade myself.

Making anti Nazi films is a political view too. But you can just tell the story. You cannot expect people to adopt your political views by hearing them.

I mean I know a lot of people who would still hate Jews and love the Nazis after watching a Holocaust film. Why? Because they are assholes. But all you can do is tell a story.

Some of you may not be able to separate art from propaganda, but you can. Art cannot be neutral, nothing is neutral. But art is open. You are telling a story, you are not telling people what to do.

Martin Scorsese tells the story of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. He is not Michael Moore and it is not his business to tell people that capitalism is evil. He only tells them how this guy ended up. The End. You fade the fuck out.

Here is the problem.

Why is it that Weinstein thinks that people would really have any change of heart after watching this film? Because really, it is their own fucking business.

Has he conducted a survey of how many people disapproved of slavery after watching Django Unchained, or how many people have changed their minds about how much organized religion can mess a person’s life after watching Philomena, or maybe that George VI was not such an idiot after all after watching The King’s Speech?

OK, a lot of people must have stopped hating people with AIDS after watching Philadelphia or Dallas Buyers Club, or would have started sympathizing with Hitler after watching Der Untergang? But what does that even prove?

Then maybe people pissed at Django Unchained were right. though I don’t even recall what their outrage was about, it was so stupid.

Really, is this his concept of what film is meant to do and what filmmaking and telling stories is about? That sounds to me like Republicans saying that people become violent due to video games when explaining mass shootings.

Who knows. Maybe both of them are right. Maybe I am wrong on this.

Maybe we should go back to the time when the films were censored and cut out  and not rated. Maybe there really are things that people are supposed to see and those that they are not supposed to see.

Maybe moral conservatism and moral policing have all the answers to the problems of the world.

Maybe there should be a department of enforcing righteousness and forbidding evil as the Islamic Sharia prescribes.

Yes, I would twist this statement to this point, because this is precisely what it is about, whether you admit it or not. That is up to you.

I just think Harvey Weinstein should have been the last person saying that. Someone like Cher or Mia Farrow or Meryl Streep or Jon Stewart would make more sense.

I mean, sure you can make a film telling the story of the Aurora shooting incident in Colorado. That would make a great and moving film actually, but doing it specifically to destroy the NRA or achieve some other political goal or lobbying leverage would not help your cause as an artist. Why not make a fucking documentary about it?

Or perhaps that kind of lobbying content is just a repulsive idea for a storyteller, no strings attached.

People know shootings are terrible. They know what happened. They know it is a bad thing. They saw it on the news. They are not stupid. The pro-gun folks will still remain pro-gun. The anti-gun folks will remain anti-gun.

Those who think killing people is a good idea would most likely still think it is a good idea. Mass shootings will still take place. But taking guns away to prevent them is not a bad argument.

It may sound like making too much fuss about nothing to some, but hey, if I rubbed shoulders with him, I would break his balls real time for that. I read somewhere that Louis B. Mayer was upset with Billy Wilder for making Sunset Blvd, one of the best films ever made in history or at least Hollywood’s best, because it showed Hollywood in a bad light (what an idiot), but someone should be genuinely upset at Harvey for this statement. Sadly, only pro gun conservatives were.

And probably the anti gun liberals would have trashed them for that. But everyone missed what the statement was about, because many of them probably believe that too anyway. Therefore, the condemnations of films like The Wolf of Wall Street, Django UnchainedLa Voie lactéeThe Last Temptation of Christ and Passion of the Christ and many many more elsewhere.

To me, it is beyond being liberal or conservative. It’s just stupid.

Also, Harvey, I am all for Jews with guns (hey, why, Germany was a peaceful country), I actually prefer them with guns, as in Israel, as it could have avoided, or at least delayed the Holocaust. And will prevent them getting attacked from all sides today. Remember Yom Kippur War? (OK, maybe my pacifism has had a little reality check)

But what I am not for is a Jewish girl avenging her family by setting a theater on fire full of a crowd of innocent German families, despite being Nazis, and having soldiers shoot the hell out of them? Alright, there were criminal Nazi generals in there too and I don’t mind interfering in her brand of justice, but what the heck.

But what is that for a message you are sending out to the audience, since you think your films have such a massive political impact. It’s a spectacular, funny climax scene, I know, gotta love Tarantino, but from your understanding, it sends out a bad message to the kids supposed to hate guns. Doesn’t it?

Did what I just said about this scene sound stupid to you?

It does? Well, I don’t blame you.

Maybe Ted Cruz was right about him after all.

Well, Harvey Weinstein is not half as close to his honesty or understanding about propaganda as Goebbels, but maybe he is getting there.

But my brother just said to me. Don’t take him seriously. He was on Howard Stern.

I just cannot.

The Message of the Film

From the film “I Clowns” or “The Clowns” (1970)

© 1970 RAI – RadioTelevisione Italiana, Compagnia Leone Cinematografica

Django Unchained & On-Screen Morality

Source: screenrant.com (Universal/Weinstein Company)

Source: screenrant.com (Universal/Weinstein Company)

Over the past months, one of the most talked about controversies in Hollywood has been director Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained. A lot of people from African American and other communities objected to the depiction of slavery in the film and the franchise action figures. Director Spike Lee has refused to watch the movie out of respect for his ancestors. I respect their opinions.

For those who have not watched it yet, it is a story of a slave freed by circumstances, who embarks on an adventure to free his enslaved wife on the plantation of a racist and sadistic landlord with the help of an unlikely accomplice. It is an almost fantasy western, loaded with everything that Quentin Tarantino has a reputation for. Well, almost, if you know what I mean. But recommended.

The film has particularly come under fire for Tarantino’s excessive usage of the word “nigger” on the screen.

Of course, I can’t speak for the African American community, and I would welcome all those who would tell me to shut up on this, but I still could not understand what the problem was about after watching the film, which I would consider anti-slavery overall.

It actually seems to be a part of the incomplete trilogy of “Tarantino’s Frustration on Historical Atrocities”, starting with relatively mediocre Inglorious Basterds, in which (spoiler alert) a Jewish girl avenges the murder of her family by shooting the Nazi audience with the military leadership in a theater and setting fire to it. Django unleashes his wrath on his Caucasian “masters” in the most violent manner as well.

But what’s so new about it all? First of all, Tarantino is known to go over the top with his vivid and shocking non-linear story-telling, depiction of violence and abusive language. That’s not news. Secondly, it is a film that seeks to depict slavery, and you would think that a milder portrayal would not have done as good a job. Maybe its timing was perfect to set the audience’s mood for Spielberg’s Lincoln.

So using softer language would only have made the usual Tarantino audience die of laughing fits. Furthermore, it would have taken away the realism and believability, despite the absurd and exaggerated action sequences and fountains of blood.

While I would like to review the film separately, I am glad Tarantino won Oscar for best screenplay, his second since Pulp Fiction for the same category, though I guess movies like Amour looked like having a better choice. But it is a statement for the freedom of speech and an apt answer to the moralist critic. I would have preferred to see Samuel L. Jackson at least nominated for his part though.

Now coming over to the matter of on-screen morality, political correctness and appropriateness.

What you are showing on the screen depends on what you are talking about and it must. When storytellers mold their narrative to meet the moral standards of the audience or the critics, they cease to be storytellers in the first place.

You could reject it, criticize it, condemn it and even boycott it if you want to. However, calling for bans would be inappropriate in itself. But let us move on with the assumption that disagreements about on-screen morality do not take place at such a primitive level.

A motion picture is after all, just a motion picture and nothing more. It can be used for propaganda, but I would always prefer to see it used for art and entertainment.

I am not denying that the content and visuals and sound of the motion picture do not affect people. Indeed, they do which is the entire point of their exhibition in the first place.

However, it is up to the audience what they take home with them on watching a particular motion picture.

Depicting a torture scene loaded with racist slurs from a Nazi concentration camp could be seen as both sympathetic to the Jewish people and antisemitic.

If a person with sadistic tendencies who does not consider rape wrong and sees its depiction on screen, no matter how painful, then the chances are that person will take sexual pleasure in it. However, the same scene can affect another person to be moved by the portrayal of the trauma and pain and could develop sheer disgust and contempt for rape or anyone who commits it.

Shifting the onus to film and entertainment actually diverts attention from the responsibility of the educators. You cannot really expect every entertainment oriented medium to lecture people on morality all the time, whatever be the cause. That won’t happen because not only is it unrealistic and absurd, but too authoritarian in terms of moral policing.

Such films would be propaganda, not art. I know some directors try to do that all the time and I can’t begin to tell you how bad they make it look.

The trouble with our world is that it does not constitute of just good and considerate people. The darker side of humanity is far more apparent every other day than its empathetic one. It is a rather pessimistic way of looking at things, but ignoring it altogether would be idiotic actually. Besides, hardly any moral ideology is complete without an evil to fight.

Furthermore, if you believe in the correctness of your moral stance, then you should consider it strengthened by the depiction of its violation. A war movie could always be seen as anti-war, no matter how much it is glorified in it, especially if it is a realistic depiction. Movies depicting female objectification, rape and exploitation will always support the feminist argument, not otherwise. Films with racist dialogue would only prove how wrong and illogical racism is.

Someone finding inspiration from it to commit crimes would most certainly not have a problem with these evils in the first place.

Bad people do not need films to strengthen their wickedness. Good people need not be worried about the loss of their virtue by what is depicted on the screen.

I Dreamed of Coffee Last Night… Among Other Things

Source: mastibite.com

I dreamed of coffee last night… among other things.

Things like love and friends who I’d never ever reach again. And people who I’d never ever want to see again.

I dreamed of people who I know have never existed and never will and places which I’d give anything to go to.

All this was a product of a day without caffeine, or nicotine, or any other drug. Strangely. And a product of letting yourself loose and getting lost in uninterrupted sleep by quitting a day’s work completely and without any worries…

Though only to be interrupted by a call for work, not immediate though, 12 odd hours later.

I am amazed at the power of the sub-conscious. It is something where you’d want to live forever. It is also how you’d want to live forever.

I was revisiting Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil the other day and I could not help but notice how well it has captured (coffee) dreams. I know the film is a dystopian satire, but it maintains the sensitivity of the human fantasy very delicately with the stark contrast of the reality, the sum of which actually makes our reality. The real world, whatever it is.

I consider these couple of minutes, and the brilliant film itself, a great symbolic definition of humanity, or modern humanity, at least. Just like so many other art. While a lot of people may not want to see dream sequences and fantasy in film, which is fine by the way, I would give a lot of weight to them and consider them very important parts of the cinema.

Because they are very important parts of our lives.

Considering the importance of our sub-conscious in our lives, which makes it something like a refuge to turn to, away from the horrific and the not-so-horrific realities of our world. I think it is important to extend that refuge to cinema, and not necessarily to comfort ourselves, but to get disturbed even, for catharsis, and for… what the hell, just to get lost. As in, a drug.

Well I guess in the end, it is important to let art be and not to guide it with all kinds of moral and intellectual compasses.

But there is also no harm in expressing what you would want to see.

Oh yes, and I was out of coffee last night. But I made sure that I had ample supply today.

But I might try doing that all over again some other day.

Here We Go Again: The Side We Missed

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Here we go again.

Told you it would happen again and here it happens again. It’s the same old cycle with the same old thing happening over and over again with the completely same consequences over and over again and it is so pathetic that you could actually accurately predict all that if you wanted to. Such is the lunacy of this situation.

As Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

In the same manner, we have yet another “publicly recognized blasphemy” and yet another insane reaction to it. This time around it’s Sam Becile’s film called “Innocence of Muslims“, which arguably falls under the propaganda category. It has sparked violent protests across the Middle East and the Indian sub continent.

Source: nydailynews.com

The riots sparked by it has even cost the lives of four US diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens in Ben Ghazi, Libya. Though the attacks in Libya and Tunisia are thought to have other reasons as well such as American occupation and attacks in the Middle East, they were certainly sparked by the blasphemy craze.

May I remind you that Muslim community, it is a community nevertheless made out of more than 1.5 billion people around the world, of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and cultures, has been hijacked by a bunch of extremist psychopaths which represent their entire image, much to the delight of those who want a conflict on both sides.

Source: Libya Al-Hurra Facebook Page/Huffington Post

Gawker recently raised this point by mocking Newsweek’s Muslim Rage cover by putting together harmless images of common people from the Muslim community around the world and also highlighting the #MuslimRage twitter trend. I found it interesting because I do believe that most of the Muslim community honestly has no representation in the mainstream media and they really are peacefully behaving folks, just like any other community.

I think what we do miss in these violent protests is the fact that hardly 1% of the Islamic world’s population is actively taking part in these protests, answering the generalizations that are usually made about them.

However, it can be very appropriately argued that the lack of criticism of such violence by the rest of the Muslim population makes them as much the part of the problem. That the rest of the population is either too insensitive to respond to these violent events or are simply too afraid to. Good that a peaceful demonstration was held in Libya to apologize for Stevens’ death.

In any case, the violent protesters find the most attention and it would be absolutely incorrect to say that their faith plays no part in that outcome. But by saying this, do we give the rest of the population a clean sheet in terms of tolerating violence and extremism justified by faith?

It is yet another lesson and another opportunity for the Muslims to reform their religion and its practice and to react to such perceived offenses in a more reasonable manner. What they also fail to realize is how much vulnerable they make themselves appear to the West when they are outraged, violently, by even a bit of an image, word or film insulting or ridiculing the Prophet. In this way, literally a 10 year old in the West can stir violent riots all across the Middle East. How fascinating is that.

There is an urgent need for reforms in this religion if it is to survive in the twenty-first century with dignity and respect and I think every member of this community should be worrying about it. Because with the presence of certain of its beliefs, it can hardly be regarded as a respectable and civilized belief system.

Muslims have a lot to think about and also a lot to answer to in this regard, to themselves, if not to anyone else.