Category Archives: 1-By Laksh

All these articles are from Laksh’s desk

Whiplash: Perfect Trio…

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‘Whiplash’ deals with controversial themes…and explores extreme angles of a relationship between a music student and his teacher. How hard an aspiring musician should try for perfection and how hard a teacher can and should push to spot and hone greatness in his disciples….these are a couple of questions that linger in the mind, while watching the film. But, from a cinematic experience, the film is pure joy, with a superb cast making it all believable.

JK Simmons (Fletcher-Teacher) and Miles Tiller (Neiman-Student) compliment each other very well and hold the film together to make sure it doesn’t slip out of the audience belief zone. Mike Tiller displays the range of emotions perfectly, as his character goes through a seesaw of feelings …in quick succession. Worth mention is the initial change in his feelings when Fletcher plays with his psyche, with a bit of unexpected praise and following it up with a chair thrown at full speed.

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But ‘Whiplash’ can never be the movie it turned out to be without JK Simmons and he deserves the Oscar every bit of it. Right from the word go, he is unpredictability at its best, which is the core of this character. He has to be both unpredictable and believable at that very moment and he pulls it off with elan.  He keeps the audience guessing as to what his real motives are….and that becomes the driving force of the screenplay.  Worth mention is the scene in the restaurant with Neiman just before the climax, getting him to accept as a drummer in his upcoming programme. It’s tough to be nice without showing any motive and that too after a sonofabitch portrayal he had shown until that point of time and he does it effortlessly.

Of course, Whiplash couldn’t have been possible without the director Damien Chazelle. To conceive and execute such an offbeat story is an extraordinary feat and in the process creates a music-based film that compares with the classic ‘Amadeus’. Interestingly the love-hate relationship of the student-teacher in Whiplash is a tad similar to that of  Salieri-Mozart. In ‘Amadeus’ Salieri’s struggle is more internalized and only comes out as narration…whereas in ‘Whiplash’ it is brought out in several scenes, with ambiguity thrown in, for the sake of driving the plot.

Like any good movie, the heart of the film lies in its climax. All three–Damien Chazelle, JK Simmons and Miles Tiller leave their best to the last. It’s a unique set-up and a mini-movie by itself. If you decide to watch just a portion of the film then this has to be it. And after watching it, there are quite a few takeaways…and it is up to you to pick the version you like. I for one would like to think that Fletcher found both his genius and nemesis.

Related links:

Laksh online on Amadeus

‘Inside Out': It’s about the mind, stupid!

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There’s a scene in the movie, when joy and sadness…rather the symbols of joy and sadness are together.  Both of them try to figure it out…. how to save the main character from going downhill.

Simple at its best, this scene might have a thousand meanings and find an echo in several religions and schools of philosophy. The lead to this scene though , is not some maudlin train of thought about life, instead thy are the inner workings of the main character’s mind.. .a small kid’s mind. Yes, Pixar team does this unthinkable of making a child’s mind the center stage of a movie,  to a delightful effect.

‘Inside Out’ has all  the trappings of a wonderful animation film–great quality of animation, terrific characters, super voice-casting etc etc.  But the real deal, is the story idea that blends science with emotion. All the concepts of core-memories, personality islands, memory dump, imagination land, dream factory, dark sub-conscious, train of thought, abstract thoughts etc are presented in an entertaining manner.  A must watch for any movie lover.

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Tailpiece: Bing Bong is probably one of the best Hero characters ever, a-la terminator willing to slip into oblivion to protect her little friend.

Related Links
‘Take her to the moon for me’
Inside Out: a crash course in PhD philosophy of self that kids will get first
The Science of ‘Inside Out’
How ‘Inside Out’ Explains The Science Of Memory

Decoding the success of ‘Game of Thrones’ (S1-6)

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Game of Thrones is a huge success not just in USA, but world over. It enjoyed record viewership on HBO and has an enormous international fan base. Critical acclaim, awards, controversies…the series had its share of all them including the dubious distinction of a Guinness World Record for the most most-pirated television program.

So, what makes this show so hugely successful?

  1. Universal themes and Canvas: Game of Thrones deals with all the time tested themes like revenge, raw power, redemption, hero journey, magic, survival of fittest, fate etc. And make sure the reveal of these is near perfect, all set against a fantasy landscape
  2. Amazing character arcs with unexpected twists: Most of the characters go through the typical Joseph Campbell Hero Journey. Key Characters from various houses–The Starks, The Lannisters, The Greyjoys, The Targaryens–all of them are displaced from their current comfort and forced on to a tumultous journey. Each season chronicles such journeys giving enough for the audience to identify, even when the characters take darker paths.
  3. Terrific Production values: Everything about the production is top notch when it comes to Production design, comparable to a big Hollywood movie.  Making the fantasy lands come to life with all these characters is no mean feat…and the team pulls it off with aplomb. The Land of Braavos with its huge Titan welcoming the visitors, designs of all forts and fortresses and the title sequence, deserve a special mention. (Theme music by
    Ramin Djawadi is out of the world!)
  4. Visceral elements and Suspense value: Sex, incest and violence are used liberally to move the plot forward, and sometimes even to create the mileu. Most of all, they are used to create a suspense and jerk the narrative forward. It’s almost like all Hitchcock worst fears have come true, in a grand scale, yet easy to consume.
  5. Great casting and acting: All the above wouldn’t matter if the audience did not fall in love with the actors. With a perfect casting in place, all the actors did a terrific job, essaying their true and hidden motives. From season to season they grow in their stature, when their characters continue, while the ones that meet an abrupt continue to linger in the audience minds.
  6. Fan following and content: Like all successful movies and TV shows, fans all over the world make sure that the legend lives on beyond the screening. Wikis, pages, discussions et al, contribute to the lore and mystery behind this series.

Related Links

Game of Thrones on Wikipedia
George R.R. Martin explains why he writes on a DOS machine
List of Houses
Bank of Braavos
Joseph Campbell Hero Journey
When music and dragons meet