Sunday, January 5, 2014

2 years in India... in movies

I love movies.*

And I love going to the movies.

Ironically (or perhaps not ironically), I don't really care for movies about how awesome movies are (I'm looking at you The Artist and Hugo.)**

During the course of our two years in India, we have gone to the movies quite a bit. Not as frequently as I do back home, but it's still an enjoyable past time here. We've probably seen all the movies we are going to see in the theaters here before we leave (unless Anchorman 2 comes to India. We would definitely go see Anchorman 2.) Assuming we've seen everything we're going to see, I thought I'd steal a page out of noted movie enthusiast (and friend of the ATKs) Yong Chang's book and review the movies we saw these past two years. Honestly, though, I'm really going to focus on the movie going experience more than the movies themselves. I mean, these aren't exactly obscure arthouse movies I'm talking about here. There were the major-est of all the major blockbusters. Yet almost every time, it seemed some new interesting/annoying thing happened.

1.) The Avengers (May 2012)
I actually wrote about how weird our first trip to the movies was in the ATK in India classic post, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Mambo No. 5" published circa May 2012. This was the first time we experienced metal detectors and pat downs at a movie theater.  It was our first run in with the ad hoc intermissions where they randomly stop the movie at teh midway point, turn on the lights, and put on a late 90s mixed cd (they really like Mambo No. 5 over here.)  We also learned movie theater popcorn in India simply doesn't compare to movie theater popcorn in the U.S.

 2.) Brave (June 2012)
I love redheads and I love Pixar movies, so I couldn't resist seeing this one. Mr. ATK was game to come along, bless his heart. I believe this was the first time we noticed that they put everyone in the same row. All movie tickets have seat numbers on them and the theater we would go to didn't actually ask where you wanted to sit, they just gave you a ticket. Since the theater was quite full when we went to see The Avengers, we didn't notice that they fill up one row completely before seating people in other rows. Not many people wanted to see Brave at 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. All ten of us in the theater were in row C. 

While I enjoyed Brave, Mr. ATK thought it probably didn't resonate with Indian audiences so well, since it's about a girl fighting against an arranged marriage. India is a more community/collective based society. I just thought that the character Merida, was unbelievably selfish. Feeding her mom some weird pie without even thinking about what's in it? Teenagers, ugh.  Also, I had no idea that bears would feature so prominently in the movie. Loved Emma Thompson, though!

3.) The Dark Knight Rises (July 2012)
We saw this the day it came out in India. In fact, we showed up about an hour early in order to buy tickets.*** There were two people standing in line.  Now there were four ticket windows and the two guys were standing in front of one.  Mr. ATK and I got all strategic and split up. So he got in the line with the other guys and I went up to the next window. As time passed more people showed up, getting in the two lines. I think someone even started a third line. Understanding how folks will totally cut in front of you, I had staked my "first in line" turf.  I was leaning on the counter with my face literally inches away from the glass. When the ticket agent finally came to start selling tickets, she chose my line! So I was first! Our strategy paid off!

Of course, once she picked my line, the massive crowd of people behind me surged forward and people started trying to hand their money over me, or sneak in on the sides. I held my ground though, despite people trying to push by me saying, "I just want to buy a ticket." I was all, "Me, too, buddy. Wait until I'm done." Then I had a guy try to give me money and ask me to buy his ticket for him. I said no.

This was probably one of the most crowded movies we saw. The movie was good. The audience started clapping after Batman escaped from the hole and returned to Gotham. Seriously, there was hootin' and hollarin' and applause. Fun fact: the prison hole that Batman crawls out of is in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. (That's in India.)

 4.) Skyfall (October 2012)
Continuing our trend of only seeing blockbuster series movies, we were at the theater to see Skyfall as soon as it came out in India. I believe once again everyone was assigned seats in the same row. This was the first time we noticed most of the seats didn't have numbers on them. We had a confab as to whether seat number 1 was on the far left or the far right, but we couldn't decide and so we couldn't figure out which seat was 8 and which was 9.  Anyways, we sat in our seats (or what we thought were out seats) until another couple with 6 and 7 showed up and were all, "You're in our seats." We disagreed and then started arguing with each other regarding which side of the row was seat 1. Finally, Mr. ATK was like, "You know what? This is stupid. Let's just move up a row." So we abandon our seats in the completely full row and climb over the seats to sit in the completely empty row right in front of the seats were in. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong. Right away the usher scurries over and asks to see our tickets. Upon seeing our tickets, he is all, "These are not your seats. Those are your seats." [Points at the two empty seats in an otherwise totally full row.]  Mr. ATK starts to argue with the usher, but to no avail. We go back to our packed row and grumble every time someone climbs over us to go to the bathroom during the movie.

As for the movie, I learned India apparently has pretty strong anti-smoking regulations in, like, movies and on TV. Every time a character is shown smoking there is a scroll that runs across the screen saying, "Warning: Tobacco kills" or something. It's kind of distracting, actually. Oh, and before the movie started there was an anti-smoking ad with, like, a sponge full of tar being squeezed out and compared to a smoker's lung. It was pretty gross. Incidentally, I am actually in favor of larger warning labels and I really like the pictorial warning some countries put on their tobacco products. I actually worked as a research assistant on a couple projects about tobacco regulations and advertising and stuff (even helped edit the chapters in this book), but this scroll thing? Very distracting. I am not a fan. So there is one scene, in the casino in Macau, where a lady is smoking (I assume that is how we know she is a bad guy) and during the whole scene this "WARNING: SMOKING IS BAD" crawl keeps happening. Ugh.  (Also, turns out she's not a bad guy. The smoking fooled me!)

Apart from that, I loved Chekhov's kimodo dragon, but that whole thing at the Bond estate with Daddy Warbucks was essentially the James Bond version of Home Alone ("Come and get me, you big horse's ass!") And I can't believe they killed Judi Dench!

Best Bond credit sequence yet, though.

5.) Argo (December 2012)
No funny stories about Argo. We had wanted to see it in India (it came out in October) but was only in the theater for a week and so we missed it as it was quickly bumped for Dhoom 2 or some other Bollywood classic. Then Mr. ATK went to Dubai for three weeks on temporary duty and I went to visit over Christmas. So we saw Argo in the United Arab Emirates (separately, though. He had seen it before I arrived). Very nice theater, you can pick your seats (and are not forced to all sit next to each other in one row), solid popcorn--it was like being at a Marcus Theater. The only hiccup was the theater was a multi-story megaplex and I had some trouble finding the correct theater.

As for the movie itself? The ATKs give it two thumbs up. Always exciting to see something vaguely related to the work you do glamorized on the big screen. Ben Affleck sure has come a long way from Reindeer Games.

 6.) Life of Pi (December 2012)
The other movie we saw in Dubai was Life of Pi. Kind of wished we had selected Silver Linings Playbook instead. Life of Pi was good and all, but it stars an Indian guy and starts off in India so it was in the theaters in India for, like, a month. A movie about a crazy dude whose crazy dad loves the Philadelphia Eagles and then starts an up and down romance with a caustic widow... except for the ballroom dancing parts, this is not really a movie made for Indian audiences. Unsurprisingly, it never came out in India and so I didn't get to see it.

This movie seemed longer than it needed to be and that whale wasn't even in the book. 

7.) Lincoln (February 2013)
This one we went to at the American Center, which is affiliated with the embassy. It's where we do a lot of our cultural outreach and stuff. They occasionally show movies as well. MamaTK and Best FriendTK were visiting at the time and since niether had seen Lincoln before, we decided to go. We actually needed tickets ahead of time (they are free so it's first come, first serve) but got four without a problem. Since this was an American run establishment, there were no shenanigans. We didn't all have to sit in the same row this time, which was nice. Oh, now that I think about it there was a random intermission in this movie. That was disappointing. Can people really not sit still for two hours?

One other thing... remember how I said whenever someone is smoking on screen in India there is a scroll saying "WARNING: DON'T SMOKE STUPID!" running across the screen? Apparently in the 1860s everybody smoked and Spielberg is a nut for historical accuracy, so... lots of smoking and basically a constant, distracting scroll running on the movie.

Kudos to Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straitharn, Sally Field, and Steven Spielberg for making a movie about constitutional procedures so interesting. I mean, I already knew that the 13th amendment was super interesting because I took Stephen Engel's constitutional law class, but good job making it interesting for everyone else who wasn't in Dr. Engel's awesome class.

8.) Iron Man 3 (April 2013)
I don't remember anything about this movie. Besides Robert Downey, Jr. having like 800 Iron Man suits that can be Iron Men even without anyone inside of them. I don't think anything funny happened at the theater except we wanted to go to one showing and it was sold out so we had to hang out at Ruby Tuesday's for an hour. Their brownie sundae was not too shabby. It came on a sizzling plate like what they use for fajitas. Creative.

                                                          9.) World War Z (June 2013)
Mr. ATK loves zombies and zombie related entertainment and so, despite generally mixed-to-poor reviews, I agreed to go see this movie because I am the best wife ever. It actually wasn't that bad, though Brad Pitt has certainly been cuter. Mr. ATK called it "good, not great." Personally, I don't care for fast zombies. Zombies are supposed to be slow. And occasionally dance in large groups. Am I the only one who has seen Thriller?

I don't remember any funny business when we went to see this movie though. So that was a first.

10.) The Heat (July 2013)
This was our first time going to the fancy-shmancy PVR Director's Cut cinema in the big mall. A movie ticket to this theater is about 20 bucks. The seats are barcaloungers and come with a pillow and blanket. I think they want you to fall asleep so you have to come back to see the movie you just paid 20 dollars to sleep through. Crafty.  We went on July 4, which was a holiday for us but a regular working day for Indians. I'm pretty sure the only other people in the theater were from the U.S. embassy as well. Not gonna lie, it's a pretty nice set up. They have waiters who come and take your order and everything. There is no makeshift intermission set to Mambo No. 5.  The only issue I had is that my Diet Pepsi came in a can. I was hoping for a fountain drink in a waxy cup--the only way to drink soda at the movies!

The movie was surprisingly funny. Of course, there is a repeated sight gag where Melissa McCarthy's Irish Catholic Bah-ston family has these velvet paintings of Jesus playing on various Boston sports teams. Well, India has some strict laws against making fun of religion, I guess, so the pictures were blurred out. Every time the camera cut to the picture, it was blurry mess. So it was one of those things when you could tell that it was supposed to be funny, but we couldn't tell what it was. In fact, at first you think the blurry mess is the joke and you're all, "What is that anyway?" It took a few beats before I was like, "Wait a minute.... Censorship!"

This is the blasphemous abomination the Indian government was kind enough to protect us from. Thanks, GOI!

11.) Thor 2: The Dark World (November 2013)
I guess we didn't see anything between July and November, which kind of surprising. Were there no major blockbusters or comic book movies that came out during that time? Well, I guess we did go to Australia in late July and early August. Then we had some house guests. And then I went back to the U.S. in September for a couple weeks. So I guess we didn't see anything.

Anyways, Mr. ATK and I went to see Thor 2: The Thor-ening during our impromptu stay-cation over Veteran's Day this past November. (If you haven't already read about our awesome stay-cation, check it out here.)  We went back to the fancy theater, which, I neglected to mention this before, but they make you go through two pat downs to get into this theater. Not just one pat down like for the normal hobo movie theater we go to. That's how know this one is fancy--you get felt up by two different security guards!

The movie wasn't bad, but there were a lot of technical issues, especially for a fancy movie theater that costs 20 bucks per person for tickets. The main issue was that the movie kept shutting off. Like there were power outages or something. This happened several times during the scenes where Thor and Loki are escaping Asgard. So we got to watch those scenes like five times, since the movie would keep restarting in the same spot (the beginning of the chase scene) despite having gone through pretty much the entire scene each time. This happened a few more times and then finally there was a long blackout, where the movie cut out and the lights came on. Oh, and I forgot to mention, we were the only people in the theater (it was Monday at, like, 10:00 am or something.)  The waiter/usher came over and apologized for the inconvenience but there were government inspectors on the premises. Fire inspectors to be exact.  So apparently fire inspection requires they turn the projector off an on about 20 times. After about 10 or 15 minutes the movie came back on and managed to make it to the end without turning off.  However, as the credits were rolling, the lights come on and like twenty guys come in. The usher comes over and says that we need to leave while the inspectors check out the theater.  Why there were twenty fire inspectors at this theater, I'm sure I don't know. I don't doubt that there are some massive death trap movie theaters in Delhi, but I suspect they don't charge 20 bucks a person or have waitstaff.

Anyways, the screen turns off and the usher/waiter is like, "They need to inspect the theater. Could you leave and then come back in to finish the movie?"  We were like, "Oh, the movie is over.  These are the credits." The usher was like, "Well then. See ya!" While I normally don't need to sit through the credits for movies****, but you know those Marvel movies always add spoilers in the credits. I missed Benicio del Toro!

Also, they didn't offer us gift certificates or anything to make up for the massive inconvenience. You know in America they would totally have given us free tickets after the first or second technical difficulty. Customer service here is fluky.

12.) Hunger Games: Catching Fire (December 2013)
So our last movie in India was the latest Hunger Games movie--Hunger Games: The Hunger Game-ening. We had just watched the first Hunger Games movie when The Last House Guest was in town, and were pleasantly surprised, so we were pretty excited to see Catching Fire when it came out.

We went to a new theater this time, mainly because we heard from some random people at the airport that there was a vet near there who sold airline approved dog crates, so we figured why not catch a movie and buy a dog crate? 'Twas going to be a very productive Saturday.

So this theater was not fancy like the other one; it was also half the price, which is always nice.  Well, they had the same policy as the other non-fancy theater we go to--the whole "Let's put everyone in the same row" policy. I would say the last three rows were all full. The rest of the theater was empty. So we were in the back row of the theater two seats in. The guy sitting next to Mr. ATK kept checking his phone and/or tablet every two minutes. (You know those bright screens are distracting!) The guy next to me was clearly on a date with a chick he just met and so they were flat out having one of those awkward "getting to know you" conversations at full volume. That's right, they weren't even whispering! For reals!  Where is that AJ Hawk advertisement telling movie patrons to shut their pie holes during the movie when you really need it?

Mr. ATK was grumbling about both of our annoying neighbors and actually leaned over to the first date people all, "Please stop talking. We are trying to watch a movie." The guy apologized and stayed quiet for all of five minutes before he started spitting game again. No, he was not even trying to whisper this time either.  After about ten minutes, Mr. ATK snapped. He was like, "That's it we're moving!" I tried to remind him of that other time we tried to move seats and got smacked down by the usher, but he was undeterred. So we got up and pointedly moved forward about five rows, until we came to an empty row. Since the movie had already started, no usher was in there to scold us. Thankfully, we were able to watch the movie in relative peace.

Sadly, the pet store was out of dog crates.

So that's it. Two years, 12 movies. The ATKs are proud to have contributed to the overseas receipts of these American classics. Buy American; that's what I always say.  Right? Right? Or, well, buy mostly American. I don't think James Bond movies are American.

I hear Bishkek (our next post) only has one movie theater and everything is dubbed in Russian, so... don't expect one of these posts in the next few years.


*I'm still working my way through the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Movies from 1998. And then the one they re-did in 1998. I hope I can finish

** Noted moviephile and friend of the blog, Yong Chang, will clearly disagree with my assessments of both The Artist and Hugo.  You can read his reviews of both movies here and here.
***Apparently, you can't use American credit cards to buy movie tickets online here. It's weird.

****Unlike my friend The Last House Guest who sits through the credits of every movie. He would have been pissed!

1 comment:

  1. I totally forgot that we also saw "Gravity" in India. We were both pleasantly surprised by it, I think. Mr. ATK more than me, because I was actually looking forward to it. He was not. But he liked it. The one thing about seeing movies abroad is that you aren't really overloaded with the advertisements, especially for movies like "Gravity". You just hear that they are good or not--I mean you aren't completely sealed off from the world, so you do see what's successful or not. I really didn't know what the plot of Gravity was and so didn't know what to expect. I thought it was great. I was on the edge of my seat. Never thought I'd say that about a Sandra Bullock movie. Especially when she is like the only person in the movie.