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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.  

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Arts & Culture

A Season of Classic Films: European classics screened at cultural heritage venues across Europe

MD Staff

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This summer, European film classics will be screened in some of Europe’s most iconic cultural heritage venues. From tomorrow until the end of September, classic films from across the EU will be screened free of charge in a wide variety of venues in 13 EU countries – from small towns to capital cities – highlighting Europe’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. As part of the wider restoration and digitisation of heritage films, the event series “A Season of Classic Films” is supported by Creative Europe MEDIA programme.

Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, said: “European cultural heritage, including our great film classics, should be accessible to everyone. I am pleased to see that the Season of Classic Films makes it possible for everyone interested to be part of an experience shared across Europe, even when attending a local event.”

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, in charge of Digital Economy and Society, added: “Cinema is an essential part of our rich and diverse European culture and is contributing to reinforce bonds between people feeling the same passion and emotion for films. Digital transformation has a decisive potential to strengthen the positive effects of culture, both economically and socially. This is the challenge of our strategy Digital4Culture, to take advantage of this successful connection between digital technologies and culture.”

The classic films season starts tomorrow at the Bologna Film Festival with a presentation of some of the restored films shot using Gaumont’s Chronochrome colour system, one of the earliest colour filming techniques. Among the classic films to be screened throughout the season are some of the best-known titles in world cinema, including Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927), Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 blows” (1959), and “Cinema Paradiso” (1988) by Giuseppe Tornatore. The iconic venues hosting the screenings include Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki, Greece, Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, and the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna, Italy. The full programme of the season is available here.

Background

Since 1991, the European Commission has been supporting Europe’s audiovisual sector, contributing to is competitiveness and to cultural diversity in Europe, through the MEDIA Programme. One of its most substantial actions is providing financial support to the distribution of European films outside their country of production. Every year, on average over 400 films are made available to audiences in another European country with MEDIA’s help. In May 2018, the Commission proposed to increase the budget of the programme by almost 30% for the next EU long-term budget for 2021-2027.

Within this project, Creative Europe MEDIA will also fund the restoration and digitisation of heritage films in order to ensure that the European culture is passed down to future generations. The event series for this summer was planned as part of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage and reinforced by the Digital4Culture strategy.

“A Season of Classic Films” follows a first initiative, the “European Cinema Night”’, which programmed 50 free screenings of 20 MEDIA-supported films from 3 to 7 December 2018 across the EU and reached almost 7,200 people. The classic films season is expected to attract 15,000 Europeans to the free screenings.

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The Sounds of the Islands: Junkanoo Cultural Festival

MD Staff

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It starts with a deep drumbeat, a baritone sensation that vibrates within your chest. An instant tingle of rhythm journeys up your spine in anticipation of the cadence to come. What follows is nothing short of remarkable; a symphony of unconventional sounds blend together to create the most infectious melodies. This is Junkanoo: a long-standing semi-annual Bahamian tradition birthed from the islands’ early ancestors. Whistles, cowbells and even conch shells are used in this charismatic exhibition of island culture that is now revered around the world.  

History of the Tradition

The earliest rumoured origin stories for the bi-annual festival stems from an African Chief by the name of John Canoe. After being kidnapped and enslaved in the West Indies, John Canoe appealed for the right of his people to partake in their celebratory traditions. The most notable time for the festival to be orchestrated is around the Christmas holiday. The most illustrious part of the festival takes place on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day at the capital island of New Providence. On these days, what was once regarded as an expression of freedom and cultural identity has now transformed into one of the fiercest national competitions. On-lookers crowd the parade routes, cheering on their favourite groups and chanting competitive mantras from the bleachers. The four most famous Junkanoo groups face off at the parades every year in hopes to win prizes and highly coveted national bragging rights.

How to Experience Junkanoo Year Round

Due to the increased popularity of the Bahamian tradition, Junkanoo can now be experienced year-round. The splashy display of costumed dancers and musicians highlight many destination-weddings. Hosts desiring to offer guests an authentic and lively environment can contract a Junkanoo band to create a unique entertainment experience. If you are in attendance at any of the local seasonal festivals, you are sure to close out the day with a Junkanoo rush out.  In recent years, a junior edition of the Junkanoo competition has been added to the winter line up of events. The littlest natives of the island adorn painted faces and tiny drums in hand, skipping and twirling to the rhythmic music.

Whether you are a first-time visitor of the islands or one who calls The Bahamas home, once experienced, the rush of Junkanoo will never leave you.  

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Turning air pollution into art

MD Staff

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Photo by Studio Roosegaarde

Artists are known to take inspiration from the world around them. So it’s no surprise that some have begun shining light on one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time—air pollution.

According to the World Health Organization, every year around 7 million premature deaths are caused by air pollution, with 9 out of 10 people breathing toxic air. Air pollution is also known to contribute to climate change and so efforts to tackle it can also help address the climate crisis.

The time to act is now, and artists, like so many others are looking at ways to raise awareness about air pollution, find solutions to reduce it and even use it as a resource.

Pollution Pods

Michael Pinsky got inspired by the differences between the various types of air pollution, when he set out to make Pollution Pods. The project consists of five domes, each imitating air in five different areas of the world: Northern Norway, London, New Delhi, Beijing and São Paulo. As you move through the domes you experience varied levels and sources of air pollution.

“I wanted to have very different sensations from one dome to another,” Pinsky told UN Environment. “It’s not just a question of how strong the pollution is but that they have very different characteristics as well.”

For London, Pinsky recreates the smell of diesel. For Beijing, he mixes the smells of industrial fumes, coal or wood-based heating, and transportation emissions. While New Delhi whiffs of burnt plastic and grass, as citizens still burn a lot of their rubbish.

Luckily, the pollution is only in smell and visibility, without the actual harmful gases. But Pinsky says the experience still isn’t very pleasant. That’s the whole point: air pollution isn’t pleasant.

Pinsky hopes Pollution Pods will lead to a more “radical approach” when dealing with air pollution, particularly with transportation. “It’s not so easy to apply the same advocacy or philosophy towards different cities in the world,” he said. “But in some cases, you could turn the problem around in two years with the right policies.”

Smog-free towers

Daan Roosegaarde was motivated by living in Beijing and witnessing the city’s strive for economic development and citizen wellbeing, when he created the Smog-free Tower. The “largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world”, as Roosegaarde calls it, sucks up polluted air, cleans it and releases it back into the atmosphere.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not a minister, I cannot give 20 billion euros to green energy today. But I’m an engineer and an artist, I can create a clean-air park, like an oasis.’”

The premise is that the smog-free tower sits in a city park, making the air 20–70 per cent cleaner than the rest of the city. It uses positive ionisation technology, which Roosegaarde says is the only way to clean large volumes of ultra-fine particles while using little energy.

Towers are now found around the world in China, Poland, the Netherlands, and soon, South Korea and Mexico. It’s also led to a global campaign, with local partners in each country replicating the towers. Roosegaarde has now introduced the smog-free ring—made of compressed smog particles—and the smog-free bicycle as well.

“This is not utopia. It’s a pro-topia where we, step-by-step, try to improve our cities,” he said. “The grand goal is to have them not needed anymore, but until then, you do what you can to remain healthy.”

Air pollution-based ink

Anirudh Sharma was visiting his family in Mumbai, India, when he began to notice that in the evening his white shirts would gradually turn speckled with something that resembled dirt.

“I realized this was air pollution, or sooty particulate matter, made of black particles released from exhaust of vehicles,” Sharma told his alma matter Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. “This is a major health issue.”

When he returned to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sharma decided to do something about the air pollution back home. So he set up Graviky Labs—a start-up that has developed a technology to attach to diesel exhaust systems to capture particulate matter. The team at Graviky treat the soot to turn it into ink, called Air-Ink, for use by artists around the world.

So far, the start-up has captured 1.6 billion micrograms of particulate matter, or the equivalent of collecting 1.6 trillion litres of outdoor air.

“Less pollution, more art. That’s what we’re going for,” Sharma said.

UN Environment

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