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Cinema vs Studios

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After waiting for over a year and plagued with production problems that could put the very word problem to shame, the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU) latest offering, the Justice League opened in theatres this Friday, November 17, 2017. For the fans of DC comics, it is the first offering that has brought the greatest superheroes in the DC universe together on the silver screen.

They had very high hopes from the movie after the debacle of the past films, Wonder Woman aside and expected that Justice League would be surefire megahit that would not only earn money but also provide movie-goers with an experience of satisfaction and wholesomeness. And boy, they could never have been any more wrong.

While it is not true that the Justice League is a bad movie. Like all movies, it has its moments of glory and grandeur and there are moments where it is a stupid mess. It would not be wrong to say that some of the scenes in the movie are pure bliss, scenes that capture the very essence of the comics and pander to their fandom. I would not be lying if I said that a few scenes in the movie are some of the very best that could ever be in a super-hero film. The casting, DCEU’s strongest point, is further strengthened by the addition of highly talented actors.  But it would be naïve to ignore the mess the movie is. Scenes are disjointed, there is a serious lack of co-ordination, heavy use of CGI and above all, a plot that feels rushed and under-developed. Justice League could have a sure-fire megahit (there is no doubt it will still make a ton of money) and a critic’s delight if it could just have been properly made but it appears that DCEU is yet to take lessons from last year’s Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. And the worst part of all this is that the sole body responsible for this abysmal failure of the Justice League is none other than the studio behind it, Warner Bros. Dude, ever heard of the saying that don’t chop the very branch you are sitting on?

Ask any kid who grew up in the 90’s who their favorite comic book superheroes are? Most would say Superman or Batman (both DC properties) with an odd few naming Spiderman (Marvel) or Fantastic Four (also, Marvel). Iron Man, who? Thor, what? Black Widow? Never heard of her. But today, it should be a matter of grave concern to the makers of the Justice League if the movies containing the tent poles of comics are making far less money that the movies containing these non-descript heroes. For me, it was nothing less than a shocker when the Batman v Superman grossed a measly USD 875 million, far far less than any good Marvel Movie. Don’t get me wrong but it is not that DC movies are pure shit, the infamous “Martha-moment” or the entire Suicide Squad aside or Marvel Movies are all great. But it is really disheartening to see Superman and Batman being pummeled down by these beings of far lesser significance. Wonder Woman was great and well-loved by all. Why not the others?

The root cause in the DCEU’s repeated false starts is the behavior of the studio executives who know nothing about comics and everything about making money by the most shameless forms. The latest diktat by the CEO of Warner Bros that Justice League should be limited to around 2 hours of running time to maximize screens was stupid & ill-advised, at best or suicidal, at worst. The movie had to establish the Flash, Cyborg and the Aquaman as Justice League Members with credible back stories, pave the way for the resurrection of the Superman after his death near the end of Batman v Superman, initiate the coming of the big-bad Darkseid, explain the McGuffins, establish the role of the Green Lantern corps in the movies, provide enough groundwork for future ventures, be good enough and earn a hell lotta cash to justify the investments in the DCEU. This was compounded by the personal tragedy of Jack Snyder which led to him leaving the movie and the roping in of Joss Whedon to complete the movie. Whedon, unconfirmed reports suggest, re-shot over 30% of the movie and changed the movie’s tone (Take that Marvel-you copied our superheroes, we will copy your cinematic style). It would be an understatement to say that the production was under pressure and the diktat made the matters worse. How could anyone cram a plot so huge into a runtime so little? Did WB not learn even a single lesson from the receptions of the theatrical release of BvS and its extended edition? The butchering of the reels and the garbage that has filtered out is not the movie millions of fans were waiting for. It is smoking mess, nothing else. True, the individual scenes are pure gold and that is a testament to the entire production crew but the movie-goers went to watch a full solid movie not any disjointed mess of movie fragment of a few mins here and there.

This is unfortunate. Movie audiences are being taken for a ride by the big studios and this must stop. Injustice has been done to the Justice League. When will “Justice be served”? Who will truly “assemble the league”. This, only time will tell.  

Culture

2018 Crystal Award: Leading artists who are bridge-builders and role models for all leaders of society

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Actor Cate Blanchett, musician Elton John and actor Shah Rukh Khan are the recipients of the 24th Annual Crystal Award, the World Economic Forum announced today. The winners will be honoured at the opening session of the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on the evening of Monday, 22 January. The award celebrates the achievements of leading artists who are bridge-builders and role models for all leaders of society.

“We heartily congratulate the 24th Annual Crystal awardees. Their commitment to dignity and to the upholding of essential human values serves as an inspiration to us all, particularly in these trying times when compassion is needed more than ever,” said Hilde Schwab, Chairwoman and Co-Founder of the World Economic Forum’s World Arts Forum, which gives out the awards.

Awardees

Cate Blanchett, for her leadership in raising awareness of the refugee crisis
Cate Blanchett is an internationally acclaimed award-winning actor and director of both stage and screen. Appointed a UNHCR Global Goodwill Ambassador in 2016, in recognition of her commitment to refugees, she has lent her voice and influence to raising awareness, advocating and fundraising for the UNHCR. Having met refugees in countries including Lebanon, Jordan and her home country, Australia, she advocates for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing for the 65 million-plus displaced people across the world. She has brought her creative skills to bear in sharpening focus on the individual human stories that lie behind the vast numbers.  Blanchett said: “As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, my job is simple: to help connect people to the human stories of those forced to flee, and to state the case for all of us to stand with refugees.”

Sir Elton John, for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS
Sir Elton John is one of the world’s most successful musical solo artists of all time, whose career has spanned more than five decades. With thirty-five Gold and twenty-five Platinum albums, he has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), which today is one of the leading non-profit HIV/AIDS organizations. EJAF has raised more than $400 million to date to support hundreds of HIV/AIDS prevention, service and advocacy programmes around the globe. In 1998, HM Queen Elizabeth knighted him Sir Elton John, Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music and charitable causes. Sir Elton John recently received the Harvard Foundation’s Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award. John said: “AIDS is the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age, yet the medicine and know-how exists to prevent this. If we want to give the next generation a better future, we could solve this problem. What it takes is our collective passion and compassion.”

Shah Rukh Khan, for his leadership in championing children’s and women’s rights in India
Shah Rukh Khan is one of Bollywood’s most prominent actors who has been at the forefront of the Indian film and television industry for over 30 years. He is the founder of the non‐profit Meer Foundation, which provides support to female victims of acid attacks and major burn injuries through medical treatment, legal aid, vocational training, rehabilitation and livelihood support. He has also been responsible for the creation of specialized children’s hospital wards and has supported childcare centres with free boarding for children undergoing cancer treatment. Khan said: “With victims of acid attacks I have had the privilege to witness the unparalleled courage and compassion that women are capable of. I have seen the transformative strength of goodness and the healing power of gentleness.”

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New Museum on Underwater Archaeology opens in Mexico

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Photo: UNICEF

On December 5th 2017 the new Museum of Underwater Archaeology opened in the 18th century fortress of Reducto San Jose el Alto, in Campeche, Mexico.

The museum was designated by the 6th session of the Meeting of States Parties to the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage as a Best Practice of access to underwater cultural heritage. It has been considered one of the most important in underwater archaeology in the Latin America and Caribbean Region by Xavier Nieto Prieto, Vice-President of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body to the 2001 Convention (STAB) at the opening event, where Helena Barba and Michel L’Hour, also members of the STAB attended.

The Museum contains spectacular finds from Mexican cenotes and from historical shipwrecks as well as a collection that retraces all the Mexican history through the archaeological sites found under water. The Museum uses new technologies to reconstruct sites and is illustrated with different media platforms on the history of the discoveries.

Designed to preserve the underwater cultural heritage, the 2001 Convention seeks to promote public access to this heritage and to stimulate archaeological research. The Museum of Underwater Archaeology of Campeche is an example of how the submerged heritage can be shared with the society for its benefit and enjoyment.

The museum has also been evaluated as a Best Practice concerning Underwater Cultural Heritage by the STAB. The STAB is an Advisory Body compound of 12 experts elected by the Meeting of States Parties. It provides advice and assistance in technical matters in the national implementation of the 2001 Convention and in the observance of the Rules of its Annex in all activities directed at the underwater cultural heritage. The STAB recommended, during the 5th session of the Meeting of States Parties (2015), to promote examples of best practices worldwide. These initiatives include maritime heritage museums, scuba diving routes, virtual exhibitions, and other cultural activities.

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Culture

UNESCO Launches Global Report Re-shaping Cultural Policies

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Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, together with Annika Markovic, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Sweden to UNESCO, representing  Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, launched on 14 December UNESCO’s new 2018 Global Report, Re| Shaping Cultural Policies.

(more…)

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