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Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog

Monday, August 02, 2004

Spiderman 2 is sexy

I am used to going to the movies alone. I have watched so many films with only me for company. But, every time I walk into a film theatre, I somehow think (and hope) that some beautiful girl would buy the next ticket and sit next to me. Reality usually always plays spoilsport. So when I bought tickets to watch Spiderman 2, I went through the habitual fantasy, before taking a deep breath and settling down to watch the movie as usual in the unimpressive and mostly talkative company of some men; or so I thought, until a couple of chicks (I cannot find a better term) were spotted manoeuvring themselves towards seats in my general direction. But life is such a bitch. Just this day, and only this day did I bring my little cousin to watch snazzy comic book superhero spidey man. Life is not just a bitch, it is a consummate harlot: it so happened that I had earlier generously given �that seat next to the chicks� to my cousin.

Oh! About the movie, my cousin was impressed. Very much! The rest of the day he spent trying to ejaculate web from his wrists and in swinging from the sofa to the dining table. He of course, could not understand why they talked so much in between the action scenes, and why on earth was such a cool guy who could almost fly, getting all moody about some girl.

Spiderman 2 is exciting stuff, excellent visual magic, wholesome treat: the kind of movie that defines the big-screen for the child in all of us. We all love comic books for just the sheer excitement and the fantasy. Then why the fuck are the producers trying to fool everybody that it is a superhero movie with a difference? Why the fuck did the filmmakers fool themselves? Spiderman 2 need not be an intellectual movie. But, by trying to make it one, they have ended up with something akin to an attempt at mixing oil and water together. Instead of getting a smooth emulsion, what they have got is a beaker full of clearly separated layers of immiscible liquid.

So much for science lessons. Cinema as a social art-form has its conventions; as a language it has its vocabulary, figures of speech, grammar, accent etc. These things are evolved and developed by serious and experimental filmmakers alike, and most often than not, these elements are absorbed by mainstream image-churners who are neither serious nor experimental. So whenever one sees a lingering close-up or pregnant silences in Spiderman 2, one shouldn�t go into a delusion that the filmmakers are creative geniuses. They have simply tried to add a poor intellectual veneer to a film that would have been gaudily comic-book and enjoyable.

Somebody must have told the filmmakers that conventional notions of beautiful people are sexist and old-fashioned. Someone told me that Kirsten Dunst look very unlike a classical American leading lady. While the latter could be true, the former is a statement that has been loosely adhered to in this film. Classic comic book representations definitely entail (like the shot of the girl in a tattered wet dress clinging onto a rope), sexist and trite imagery. But when you want to make a statement, make it fully, not like Mani Ratnam, in fits and starts, half-baked and unconvinced hence unconvincing. You cannot try and show reality, emotional upheavals, and try and make a study of the human condition when the audience is constantly distracted by Kirsten Dunst�s nipple. Coming to our mod-Eurostyle unhealthy leading lady: In scenes she looked positively doped, but hey, no one wanted you to watch her face.

Tobey Maguire, how much ever he tries, can never be Michael Keaton, or Val Kilmer, or even a charming Christopher Reeves. To play a tormented soul, one needs to be really talented. Of course, the film should also give scope for that.

I have always defined film in a loosely structuralist sense as film as art, film as science (or craft), film as mass media text, and film as business. Blurring the lines and then re-sharpening them, we can also look at film as religious and political discourse. Most organised religions deal with notions of karma, sin, abstinence, virtuous sacrifice, resisting or conquering temptation, damnation, and redemption. So does almost all classical discourse. Mainstream cinema is no exception. The comic book is never ever an exception. So spidey widey is as much a symbol of resurgent conservatism as he is about a devout and violent, sexually repressed fundamentalism.

As children�s literature, a direct morality story is fine (or is it at all?), but when we (mostly out a misplaced sense of temporally-influenced maturing) consider ourselves to be thinking adults, we do little justice to our evolved human faculties of thought and abstraction by simplifying our discourse and dumbing-down social conversation. When the world is getting more networked, the knee jerk reaction seems to be an attempt to simplify and ethnocentrically modify an increasingly complex set of messages that come from all directions. The film as political discourse and as media text, needs to reflect and consequently evoke sensitivity, if not a complete understanding of complex reality.

Spiderman 2 is politically and socially aware, but not intelligently and maturely responsible. The politically correct necessary Mr Aziz pizza boss is potentially stereotypical in a blatant attempt at compensatory political chicanery; and the representation even smacks of an artifice that is parodied in the character of the vegetarian shark in Nemo. (Extended into the Muslim army that is to be sent into Iraq.)

Another big grouse I have is the representation of research science in mainstream cinema. It is either incomprehensible (again stereotyped and dumbed down to famous equations like E=M(C^2)), or it is dealt with an Einstein-like dogmatism of �nice science� on a Christian leash�the apple that should never be eaten or the box that never should be opened lest there be eternal damnation or pestilence and (potentially dangerous) enlightenment for the common man. Scientists are portrayed as reckless, mercenary, eccentric, insensitive, over-ambitious, or plain mad-bad. Sadly the Michael Crichton sort of literature that brings scientific trivia to the masses, reinforces these bad stereotypes.

Getting back to the movie, I have to end this commentary by discussing a few other things. This movie is tedious and tiring for the audience simply because it is overwhelming. It is like protracted sex. Very brisk, then suddenly dull to the point of flaccid limpness at times, immediately aroused for another brisk bout, only to be stroked into calmness again just so that the encounter is prolonged and the climax delayed. Finally a frenzy, to reach a decent climax, that validates the saying that in any journey, the best part is in getting there and not in the destination. What really is interesting about Spiderman 2 is that after the short orgasmic end, you are forced to hug and cuddle up in bed, indulging in (whatever is the counterpart of foreplay), smooching a sweaty face and generally saying a lot of �I-love-you�s rather than run to the bathroom for a good freshen-up.

Phew! I think this is one of those days when I am excessively Freudian, super-excessively verbose and ultra-excessively male.
Spiderman 2 is a kind of replacement sexual-gratification for children. But aren�t all of them?

11:32 pm


Comments to Spiderman 2 is sexy

"But when you want to make a statement, make it fully, not like Mani Ratnam, in fits and starts, half-baked and unconvinced hence unconvincing." Loved it man!

posted by Blogger suman kumar 

12:26 pm, August 03, 2004

Your review is incisive. Though the insertion of Aziz may seem crude, and cliched, I think -not from an artistic POV mind you- it does what the Squirrel did to Lord Rama: No big shit, but hey it felt nice. These troubled times demand some sacrifices I guess; from all of us, and especially from those that are in the mass media. I am glad they didn't show Aziz giving Spidey's job to an Asian that works for peanuts and is twice as faster on the scooter ;-) .

posted by Blogger suman kumar 

12:42 pm, August 03, 2004

So after Indian software professionals, it is the turn of Chennai auto drivers to take away American jobs. :D

posted by Blogger Anand 

2:46 pm, August 03, 2004

Comics as inidcators of present society, validates your analysis;and I remember opining that spiderman himself seemed like a personification of 'America', with the reinforcement of the aphorism within the movie("With great responsibility comes great power").It seemed to coincide with the vast political undecurrents sizzling underneath....For instance, after spiderman swerves from his original mission to 'save-the-world', his vision falters and as soon as he replenishes his moral vaults, his vision is impeccable once again. I remember thinking that it seemed like yet another way to usher the presidential elections and a way of guiding (sublimnaly) perceptions regarding America's recent 'neo-colonialistic' move.

From a (social) structuralist pov, it was obviously the big hit summer movie that everybody wants to see, because it strives to maintain the status quo, reinforcing all of the 'comfort-zone' feelings about traditional heroism,values,societial structures, political powers and life-purpose. One of my friends remarked that it had 'something for everyone' and he was damned right. It had a lot for me to bitch about; perpetration of sexism being one of the primes. I have worked on one such rainy shoot where the actress was actually asked to painfully tweak her nipples before each take, so I know that it hurts both on the physical and the emotional planes and psychologically too(that is if and when Kirsten Dusnt dares to envisage 'patrons' across the world jerking off at the vividness of her tweaked nipples, ojectifying her to nothing more than a mere red head...which is an accurate depiction of MJ in our movie.)

As far as writing was concerned, I felt infantalized through out and was honestly insulted by the crass idiocy of the dialogue. It was abrupt, predictable and totally unimaginative. A little more imagination in the dialogue and screenplay would in no way have resulted in ambiguity for younger audiences. The visual element of the movie in such a case, would have reiterated any missing gaps in the plot that clever dialogue would have left behind. But instead, there were badly positioned scenes, bad bad bad writing, the quintessential one that takes spiderman away from MJ's luscious lips with her stioc remark "Now, go save the world" or some such horse shit.

Humanising spider man with the young and somewhat juvinile Tobey Mcguire is confusing at times. This because, he is neither the virile Val Kilmer which would have justified (if it is even possible) the slavish MJ, nor a sex-less super power, a savior of the neighborhoood. So I don't really know what evolving type of masculinity he depicts with his ever-cracking adolescent voice and wide, baby blue eyes.Alfred Molina as the man-made arachnid is convincing, although we have seen him in better suiting roles before.
There is, need less to point out a clear dichotomy between science and religion which as you said is a classic european rhetoric, not to forget the perception of sex as a necessary taboo that must be 'overcome'or 'transcended' in order to pursue nobler ideals. Reminds me of the stunned expression of an American friend when I declared that my last name translated literally from its original in sanskrit was simply - Mega Phallus!
Hypocrisy, is in my humble opinion, personified in Spiderman.

Aside: Anand: Email me (address in my blog). I am in town.

posted by Blogger Mitochondria 

12:55 am, August 05, 2004

Para 1: Get a Girlfriend!

Para 2: Glad ur Cousin liked!

Para 3: Its more of Peter Parker as a character and dont think Raimi was in anyway trying to be "intellectual" about it!Ergo,unnecessary ranting on a presumption!

Para 4:Presumption that Spiderman is categorized as a product of creative genius!Maybe u felt it that way and just ur way of rationalizing that its not!

Para 5: Sure hope that "someone" is not a desi who said Kirsten Dunst was unAmerican like!Again,an explanation for a presumptious premise!As far Kirsten's nipple, refer to para 1.She definitely looked stoned!

Para 6: A confused,self-righteous,teenager trying to do the right thing with his powers!Thats Spider Man!Thats Tobey!Am sure u know the rest of Super Heros u mentioned are Men while Spidey is still a teenager!

Para 7: Where do i start ? Perhaps the most outrageous,funny,extremely intelligent sounding but underneath just a bunch of words strung together in an attempt to define spidey,who in reality is just a boy who loves a girl with super power he doesnt like much!
Am sure Stan Lee would be delighted at ur definition!As far as ur re-sharpening is concerned almost every action in life involves that!

Para 8: And ur point is ? Spiderman as a movie shud be more realistic ? Its a Super-Hero movie for god's sake :) We are not talking people vs Larry Flynt or Contender!

Para 9:ROFL! The setting of the movie is NY and u shud probably visit NY(maybe u have) to understand the number of desis running "Subways" and Gas Stations!
If he was Aziz or Goldberg or John Doe, the character's dialogue wouldnt have changed one bit! This is what i call extreme extrapolation!

Para 10: U have always had the good scientist vs bad scientist! I dont think there is anything like "bad stereotype" for the scientist folks!
Do u want to paint a different picture of scientist other than related to science ?

Para 11: You can't use overwhelming & tedious,tiring in same sentence.Defeats the purpose of what ur trying to say!
A drama is supposed to have its moment of highs and lows and plateaus which according to u, seems like u got it!
As far as the rest of the paragraph is concerned, REFER TO PARA 1.

Para 12:Finally got nothing to say on them!

Am sure you will take my opinions in the right spirit! Just new to the blog world and really liked your page!

posted by Blogger Rama The Drama 

9:44 am, August 05, 2004

Mito Mahalingam: You filled in whatever I didn�t think of or had left out. Great! BTW where is your e-mail address on your blog?

Ramchi: Of course I take things in the right spirit! In fact I can take anything that goes right with spirit! Hic! (Sorry!)
Glad that you liked my page. I like some of the points you have made. Sometimes people tell me that I have lost the ability to enjoy a movie for what it is worth rather than intellectualise everything. But you see, I am made like that and I enjoy writing the things I do, the way I do because I believe in them. (Of course, I don�t force anybody else to do the same, or look at things the same way). I am extremely happy to have an opinion of my own and am pleased that you too have yours!
Also, I do have to state that most of what I worked with (especially the film being touted and marketed as intellectual fare) are not presumptions but from actual promotional material, �placed talk� and word of mouth plugs. Any review that gives Spiderman 2, five stars is promotional material.
The last thing I wanted to do was defend my statements. But I guess I couldn�t resist it. You know every superhero has his kryptonite.

posted by Blogger Anand 

2:14 am, August 06, 2004

Hey Anand,
LOL @ the spirit pun!Its good to find a guy who agrees to disagree!Its no fun if one is not opinionated!Atleast that gives an opportunity to dig deep under the issue and if they are able to convince otherwise, no harm in changing the vote!Lets keep it coming :)

posted by Blogger Rama The Drama 

8:19 am, August 06, 2004

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posted by Blogger TS 

12:44 pm, October 02, 2005

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