Of Movies And Big Screens


Four months into 2014, and I remember that I have a blog which I swore to maintain. Who did I swear to? Myself. Does this mean that I die if I don’t update my blog? No, since I haven’t updated it, and I’m quite alive. Does this meant that swears are pointless? Indeed. But why am I mentioning this? To increase the word-count of this post Because why not? Then why am I writing this post? I know you’re all dying to be blown away by another one of my literary masterpieces and the last few posts have made you hungry for more. And I decided to throw you all a bone.

A few days ago, I was sitting at the Nescafe in the college with Kilol and Fahad, when the topic of movies came up. FabFahad mentioned that he doesn’t watch English movies because “laptop screen pe movie dekhi nahi jaati“. Kilol seemed to agree with this sentiment, in the sense that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

After my initial urge to smash Fahad’s head in with a hammer had subsided (not Kilol’s though, she’s cute), I began to wonder about this. What is a movie experience? How would you define one? Movies are unique in way – they’re completely different from other forms of artistic media of expression like books and music such that they’re specifically shot to be shown on the big screen. A book publisher chooses a typeface and font size, but the author may not specifically recommend one. A musician may want his music to sound in a particular way, but may not have issues over its method of distribution (digital or physical media). As long as they reach their customers, they’re happy.

Movies, though. Filmmakers are extremely specific in the way content is delivered. The choice of aspect ratios, the nuances in sound mixing and many more are pondered upon meticulously by them. Because they want the viewer to be lost in their world to guarantee as much immersion as intended. (This is the cornerstone of the smoking-message debate). I understand this.

Certain movies like Avatar and Gravity simply do not work outside the cinema hall. Avatar is probably the best example. I remember watching it in 2D at PVR and being completely blown away by the visuals. So profound was the effect that I convinced myself to ignore the (many) plot holes and errors in the film. Notably, Avatar and Gravity made a lot a money owing to their use of 3D, which convinces many studios to start producing 3D films and converting films shot in 2D to 3D during post-production. The re-release and subsequent success of Titanic and Jurassic Park to name a few reinforces the fact that the audience cherishes a grand movie watching experience. The rise in the sales of large-screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, home-theatre systems further provides proof of this phenomenon.

Till now, this felt like an essay I’d write in an English exam (basically full of bullshit to inflate the word count), but this post isn’t about the others. It’s about how feel. Looking back at all the hundreds of movies I’ve watched (claiming to be a movie buff in the process), I realized that most of them weren’t seen in the theatre. They were either seen on my TV, laptop or even a tiny phone screen. If you were to hold me at gunpoint and ask me to rattle off my favourite movies of all time, it would closely resemble IMDB’s Top 10 list.

I saw The Shawshank Redemption on my 21″ Sony TV on Zee Studio, which had censored a lot of portions. Just like it did then, Red’s concluding monologue about the Pacific Ocean gives me goose bumps till this date.

At the age of eight, when my beautiful little face was contorted by pockmarks (thanks a lot, VZV), dad brought home a VCD (remember those?) of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. My jaw still drops when the Battle of Helm’s Deep is fought.

Owing to its length and severe lack to time due to exam preparation, I saw The Godfather: Part II in four instalments on my 17″ monitor with god-awful speakers and running subtitles to decipher what everyone was saying in Italian accents. Al Pacino’s wide, bulging eyes, when he slapped Diane Keaton right across the face, will remain etched in my mind.

I saw JJ Abrams’s take on Star Trek on my 40” TV which begins with a stunning set-piece immediately followed by some of the most iconic movie themes I’ve had the pleasure to experience. In a hilarious reversal of status quo, I tried to recreate the experience by catching its sequel in the theatres, but nothing came close to capturing the sense of awe I had experienced with the first one.

There are many more additions to this list, notably Psycho, L.A. Confidential, The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Inception, Toy Story 3, Looper, Primer… none of which I managed to catch in the theatre, irrespective of their release dates. They’re all examples powerful, though-provoking, cerebral cinema which I aspire to watch whenever I decide to watch one. And I don’t think I need a cinema hall for that.

If I were a filmmaker, I’d probably be offended by someone remarking they were underwhelmed by my creation simply because they saw it on a smaller screen. By extension, I believe good cinema is only one which can convey the desired emotion irrespective of its medium of distribution. Otherwise, many classics won’t be held in high regard, as it’s safe to assume a majority of the movie-going population hasn’t seen many of them in a cinema hall.

This post/rant ends here. Have a drawn a conclusion? I think I have. But can I say this with absolute certainty? Definitely not. I clearly had higher expectation from this post. Part of me hoped I’d get a clearer answer when I end it, but that hasn’t happened. I can say that Fahad’s opinion is incorrect, but surely cannot vouch for the validity of mine as well. I can feel a sense of frustration welling up inside you, as you realise this post will end in the top wobbling. I’ll leave the decision up to you.

P.S: I wasn’t lying about the head-smashing. I can totally do that.

Head-smashing

Head-smashing

P.P.S: It just struck me that Fahad may be referring to poor posture leading to a general sense of discomfort. In which case this rant was totally pointless.

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