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Some Ramblings - 2012
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

What's in the destruction of colossal structures that is awe-inspiring (awe is probably the wrong word here, but still...), leaving people agape looking at behemoths bite the dust? The sight of massive constructions, like the ones on the famous Strip in Las Vegas, razed down to the ground by controlled demolition experts setting off sequential explosive charges, and being watched on by hordes of cheering onlookers, makes a good case study for the psychoanalysts. Interestingly, a time lapse coverage of those same massive constructions being built from the ground up wouldn't evoke even half that enthusiastic response. Could it be the immediacy of the event, from start to finish, of destruction, that trumps the delayed gratification of construction? Or is it the latent animal instinct in humans that regales at something being torn apart mercilessly? Reasons could be (m)any, but it is a given that people, and audiences in particular, like destructions - huge fireball explosions, mushroom clouds, violent collisions etc. As an example, according to a study, most people watch stock car races in anticipation of a spectacular crash, than for the skill of the drivers trying to negotiate the curves over and over again. In effect, the bigger and the louder, the better, and the more famous, the greater is the rush. There is a definite 'David' trait (of David-Goliath fame) in every human being that rejoices when the mighty (men or structures) are brought down to their knees; their constant sense of insecurity, particularly in the face of the unbeatable/insurmountable, that gets soothed watching the mighty humbled. There could be no other logical reasons than the above for people 'enjoying' destructions, which reminds of the famous dialogue from the yester-years classic, 'Mayabazar' - "peLLi chaeyamanTae chaeta kaadu gaani...paaDu chaeyamanTaenaa....".

Well, so much for the psychoanalysis. The big daddy of disaster genre Roland Emmerich may not know the underlying psychology for why people are drawn to doom (at least, on the movie screen), but he certainly knows the pulse of the audiences, which in Tarzan-speak translates to, famous-good, big-better, destroy-best. The man has practically dedicated his celluloid life to bringing down the big and the famous, the bold and the beautiful and the mighty and the majestic, for almost a couple of decades, and ever more so, since computers caught up with his fetish for cataclysm since 'Indepedence Day'. Had he existed in the celluloid world, instead of the real one, he would have made a great James Bond villain - megalomaniacal in plans, monumental in grandeur, and evil, in execution. He constantly searches for ways to unleash his apocalyptic vision on poor old earthlings. Characters in his movies are mainly for cut-away reaction shots, nothing more. A massive building collapses in eye-popping detail, and all that the characters are needed for is either to get caught in it or run away from it. And his sense of story doesn't extend beyond how to get the character in front of the destruction and how to pull it away from it. His characters can outrun natural elements on motor vehicles and even on foot, escape volcanic bursts by just a whisker, and hoodwink oncoming deluge simply by taking a right turn, and thereby cheat death in every which way permissible by the visual effects department. Hoping for even a tiny bit of character development is as futile as searching for subtlety in a Michael Bay movie. That he is not making Shakespeare, but pure eye-candy, only sometimes holds up for his defense ('Independence Day'). His movies are practically critique-proof. be damned, the only yardstick to measure an Emmerich movie remains whether the CGI is impressive or not. And the rest - plot, characters, drama - is just chaff. His movies follow former President Bush's (in)famous foreign policy dictum - 'Either you are with us, or against us'. Similarly, either one 'gets' the graphics or not. Sadly, '2012' toes the line of another cliche - 'been there, done that'.

As long as world destruction is all just pure popcorn fun, here are top 10 ways of surviving in a Roland Emmerich's disaster movie

10. The lightning rule - never stand too close, or in fact, never stay in the vicinity of tall structures. Aliens, Godzillas and even natural disasters, like terrorists, have serious identity crises. They cry for attention attacking tall buildings, in the delusion/hope of making a serious statement. So, avoid tall structures, for the safety and the well-being of the character

9. The obscurity rule - never live in famous cities that has many landmarks. Chances of survival in obscure cities, like Wichita, Kansas, Rampachodavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India, are much more in an Emmerich movie, compared to a New York, LA, Tokyo (in exactly that order) etc.

8. The hyphenate rule - Be a somebody, who can do a lot many things, like writer-driver-computer technician-swimmer-part time pilot etc, as these skills would certainly come in handy in diverse difficult situations that the throw along the way. A one trick pony is destined to die.

7. The divorce/separated rule - Never be a third wheel in a 'blow hot - blow cold' relationship. That would greatly diminish the chances of the survival. Remaining in a divorce/separated situation is an ideal case that would keep the couple alive in question alive till the end of the movie, for the 'awwww.....' inducing heart-warming kiss and hug makeup in the climax.

6. The age factor - Hollywood, as a general principle, never kills off kids in disaster movies, as that would seriously hurt the box-office demographics. And for the rest of the folk, age acts like a half life, with exponential deterioration. The older a character is, the quicker he is going to die.

5. The pet factor - Animals are treated much more humanely than humans, as PETA watches Hollywood with a hawk-eye. So better off being a quadra-ped than a bi-ped.

4. The affirmative action exception - Exceptional minority candidates always make it till the end of the movie. Mediocre majority candidates MAY make it, but it is a given that mediocre minorities become the first casualties of invading aliens, stomping Godzillas or oncoming deluges.

3. The Blonde Identity - Blondes may have all the fun in real life, but not so in disaster movies, and the peril factor proportionally increases with their beauty. So the choice is quite clear, to dye or die!

2. The Uncle Sam rule - the benefits are great, they say, working for the Fedeal government, and that includes, quick quarantines, immediate evacuation in Air Force One/ Marine One / or any other motor vehicle bearing the suffix 'One', and round the clock military protection. So what if the take home pay is a little low!

1. The top billing rule - the one that trumps all the above. Receive top billing for the movie, and the character gets to see the end credits.

Mr. Emmerich has destroyed monuments, national parks, cities, and now in '2012', almost the entire land mass of Mother Earth. And the guy has a strict standard of not destroying the same landmark twice. So the big question for Emmerich remains - what next? Well, here is an idea - the universe that is now in the expansion mode is going to halt at some point and start contracting from there on, causing everything to be crushed back into the same tiny space from whence everything came into being pre-Big Bang. Now that would make a great inter-galactic disaster movie of epic proportions, quite literally.

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More Ramblings on films
Inglorious Basterds
District 9
The Hurt Locker
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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