Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
It is a curious story because the central character is born as a 95'ish old man. Benjamin lives the early part of his life as a doddering old man in wheel chairs with arthritis, deafness and teeth problems. While externally he seems to grow in reverse - internally mind wise he seems to be growing normally. He lives his life adventurously taking his chances and flowing the way of the wind a'la Forrest Gump (The movies share the same screen writer). He meets a 5 year old girl when he is 90 and later marries her when their ages intersect in their 40s. Then, as she grows old, he "grows" into a teenager, a toddler and an infant. As I said it is a fascinating story. While we are not told repeatedly that Benjamin is ageing downwards, it is sort of there as an undercurrent during all the events we see. It adds so many layers of complexity to the movie and makes every scene seem rich.
David Fincher's presentation techniques is always unique. Right from Alien 3 (which won the best cinematography Oscar) to Panic Room (where we see that single shot sequence progress from the 3rd floor down the house int the key hole, out of the hole and into the window) he has this unique style of visualising the movie. Here the contours of the movie keep changing with time. It starts with a highly sepia'ed touch in the beginning, reminiscent of video cameras in charlie Chaplin movies and then moves on to 1980s look and feel. Here he amazes everyone with his side stories too. In the Fight Club there were several sub-stories on soaps, car faults that kept amazing us. Here, we see a man's narration of how he is struck by lightning seven times. Given the title of this blog, I was so happy to see that sequence. Every time they showed that man there were peals of laughter. He says "I was standing there mindin' my own business and lightning struck me". And I could have cried. Then there was a sequence where Brad Pitts voice over describes a collision course of two objects as if guided by destiny. Wonderful.
Overall, this movie is an ode to the possibilities of life. It was a fantastic idea to have Benjamin start his life in an old age home where people come to die. Since at the beginning people don't know if Benjamin will grow old and die or just live along - everything seems temporary. It sets a context that tells us how valuable Benjamin thinks life is. What it means to do what you want, fail, start over again and do a new thing when you want it. It is the possibility that scares the hell out of people stuck in 9 to 5 jobs, wasting their lives by doing work they don't like. Just for the sake of survival. Another layer below that the movie talks about the transience of everything. There is a dialog Brad Pitt says in Troy (approx) "Gods are jealous of us because we are mortal. You will never be more beautiful than you look now. You will never experience this moment again. You will never be young again". This movie just defines that emotion. At another layer -this movie makes us think if there any difference at all between growing old and growing young. "We all end up in diapers" she says with a sardonic smile.
Apart from Fincher's artsy'ly paced story telling including his occasional indulgence, the movie greatly benefits from Brad Pitt's performance and the person who wrote the dialogs. From Brad Pitt's nervous excitement as a 90 year old kid to his calm demeanour as a teenager is all part of a splendid performance. I don't think he has done a better role. The dialog writer sometimes deals only in punchlines but nevertheless does a great job of making us notice the power of words. I am going to be rooting for this movie at the Oscars.
Valkyrie, directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman, Usual Suspects), is a very taut thriller that documents one of the several assassination attempts on Hitler. It is a motion picture based on a true story. And it is a very good movie that is unfortunately limited by the necessity to stick to facts. If this were not a true story it would have had more entertainment potential. There are several movies that have documented stories surrounding Hitler. Nazi, Germany and Jews. Yes, the Jews have suffered and yes! Hitler was a bad guy. The collective angst of the sufferers have not died out. At least in Hollywood. So here is one more movie that tells us the story from the German perspective. There is going to be one more, starring Daniel Craig, next year. So frankly, I am getting tired of it all.
Valkyrie is a story from the German perspective. There are no Jews shown and no atrocities shown. This movie tries to tell us that there were good among the Nazi Germans too. Those who did not agree with Hitler. Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg is a German army officer, played by Tom Cruise, who leads the assasination attempt on Hitler and comes up with a rather curious plan to take over Germany after Hitler's death. The Wikipedia link provided above should provide all the gory details on Stauffenberg and Valkyrie. As far as the movie goes, it kept me riveted on the edge of my seat. The disadvantage of the movie was that almost everybody going into the theater knew the ending. However, the movie did well to have a firm grasp on the viewer's attention until the last minute. There were moments we almost feel and will in favor of the characters we like. This movie, although, shows us glimpses of Hitler and even has him mouth a few dialogs -> never shows the sequence of events from Hitler's perspective. It focuses on Stauffenberg's world and events as it happens to him.
Tom Cruise plays the lead role with his usual intensity. He has the Kamal Hasan factor where the actor always surfaces above the character and makes us notice the actor more than the character. In this movie it does not hurt because we are made to believe that Stauffenberg was a similarly intense, cold and determined person as portrayed by Tom Cruise. The plot kept us all informed about what was being planned and the efforts required by different parties within the resistance movement to make the plan work. So it was fun to watch the plan go astray, like all plans do, due to a variety of reasons. General Friedrich Fromm is another interesting character played with a lot of grace by Tom Wilkinson as a person with a foot on both sides of the fence. The dialogs and negotiations Tom Cruise does with various parties were delightful and ranged from blunt/direct (the way he recruits his assistant) to extremely subtle (his conversations with Fromm). All in all it is no Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan but it is certainly worth going to the theater.
P.S: I was too tired when I came out of Valkyrie so postponed the Benjamin Button ticket to today
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Moving on, here are two videos - one from the Kerala version of super singer and one from the Thamizh Nadu version. Both these videos feature the best singer of this year in the competition trying to sing a very difficult song. Both singers sing the same song. I have to say that the Kerala version of this competition, in general, is much better organized. It seems to have better sound infrastructure and quality. Some of the feedback given is also very nuanced and interesting. When you think of Kerala and music there is a perception that the culture of music has permeated well into that state. In Thamizh Nadu carnatic music is restricted to few sections of the society. Not that folk songs are more prevalent. It is as limited in its spread if not more than its carnatic sister.
Roopa Singing Udhaya Udhaya (Note: she cannot speak/Understand Thamizh)
The comments from Judges are also interesting.
Ravi Singing udhaya Udhaya
As an interesting "extra" here is Roopa singing my favorite song "Gangai Karai" from Varusham 16. This is a very difficult song to sing. "Mottai" in a rare interview (Source: Random IR forums) said that this was probably the only song he ever composed in "Thodi" raagam. That it was a hard raagam to compose for film music and if he made a slight error here and there it would "degenerate" into another raagam (Sankarabharanam ?). Jesudas sang that excellent song.
Here is Roopa trying Gangai Karai Mannan.
Here are the originals
Gangai Karai Mannan
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For the past 2 months, I haven't been reading other blogs as much as I usually do. So, I haven't read any of the twitter updates or all the "live blog updates" during the mumbai attack. Presumably these were started and publicized during Mumbai floods, blasts and other similar events with the professed intention of "providing information" and "helping people". Popular bloggers who link to these blogs with comments like "great coverage" or "he is covering this by the minute" have also misled me. I now suspect that these popular bloggers have just linked these blogs/twitters for the sake of "doing something" without bothering to read them and understand their value. The question in my mind is -> has this has led to a "network" effect where other bloggers believe (because the big guys believe it) that there is value in these "live blog updates" thereby causing more links to these type of blogs? Has this unintentionally allowed those blogs to bubble up to the top of search results and thereby propelled them into TV Media's radar? Or, did the TV media do what the popularbloggers did? Pick an arbit twitter/blog out of their asses and called it "good coverage".
I have a karuthu as to why this sudden and freak claim to fame happened for blog coverage of terrorist attacks. The average overweight guy sitting at home, playing video games, and feeding off library books - feels angry that he cannot be a superman and cannot rescue earth from the Doomsday monster. So, much similar to the way that girl in my office started a signature campaign/letter to Manmohan singh and created a lot of useless buzz, this person must've have started a "live coverage blog" to satisfy his own ego. You know "just to do something". Many people who have overdosed on "Rang De Basanti" must have felt the need to do "something" and have joined this. The main reason why I fear the Internet may provide us something dangerous before giving us something useful is because -> It provides people, who are inherently lazy, an easy alternative to useful/productive work (one that involves a lot of undesirable hard work). The crux of the danger is that this alternative provides similar levels of satisfaction and infinitely more popularity.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town.
A few English actors have a 'style' associated with them. Sometimes, when I see them, I am reminded of why Rajinikanth is so loved. There is a sense of uninhibited flair about them. A unique almost idiosynratic style that distinguishes them as a cavalier character. Pierce Brosnan played that stylish person in Remington Steele. His mannerisms, expressions, the way he opened a car door, shined and held his shoes (remember Rajini-Poornam in Thillu Mullu), held a wine glass, picked up a phone or tipped a waiter - was so cool you'd be ashamed to even try and imitate that. John Cleese brought out a style in Fawlty Towers that I would consider as inimitable. Jeremy Brett's style sweeps you off your feet. He brings an intensity to Holmes that would have had Doyle's approval. At the same time he is sarcastic, contemptuous and so disdainful that you almost feel you should learn to insult as well as he does. There is line that Holmes utters - a loan from Shakesphere;
" Age doth not wither nor custom stale my infinite variety"
"You see. The value of imagination. It is the one quality that Inspectior Gregory lacked. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified."
Books & DVD:
3. The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The book contains stories published betwen 1903–1904 in The Strand. The Stories are "The Adventure of the Empty House", "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder" , "The Adventure of the Dancing Men", "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist", "The Adventure of the Priory School", "The Adventure of Black Peter", "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" , "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"
"The Adventure of the Three Students", "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez"
"The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter", "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange"
"The Adventure of the Second Stain"
4. His Last Bow : The Book contains stories published between 1908–1913 and 1917 in The Strand. The stories are "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge", "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box", "The Adventure of the Red Circle", "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans"
"The Adventure of the Dying Detective", "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" , "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot","His Last Bow"
"The Problem of Thor Bridge", "The Adventure of the Creeping Man", "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane", "The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger" , "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place"
"The Adventure of the Retired Colourman"
Monday, December 15, 2008
With those 2 ODI innings in the C & B series in Australia and with this - a 4th innings century, not out, to finish a record chase - Sachin is on his way to check off some of the trivial criticisms that has distracted people from his achievements. One is compelled to feel that he needn't have done this to prove his greatness as a batsman - but it is nice that he did so anyway.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
The remote is gone.
Sometimes all it needs is 1 minute and 40 seconds to make its getaway. You sit there in despair and shout "It was just here. How did it get away?". Needless to say by the time you organize a search party and locate the remote, the coffee has become very cold. Sometimes the TV remote plots its escape on a longer timeline. It does not escape until you go to sleep. It tries to gain your trust by befriending you and staying with you until you go to sleep. The moment you go to sleep it flees like the way Robin hood does after he has had a session of hot love making with Little John's little sister. You wake up in the morning and you see that the cupboard is bare and the remote has fled its coop.
Cell Phones are also very good in plotting against us. It has got more exposure than the TV remote. It has been around, it has travelled with us and so has talked to other people. There is no way a TV remote can run away while humans are driving the car or while they are at someone's place for dinner. TV Remotes never get that kind of opportunity. Several times human beings have kept their cell phone on the counter to sip a cup of water and then be surprised to find out that the phone has disappeared. You can never take your eyes of them phones. Cell phones have a disadvantage that remotes don't have. You can call these things and they have homing devices that forces them to reveal their locations. You can never call a remote control. But some mobile phones are clever, nay evil. They make sure that they aren't well charged and once they disappear they quickly get into low battery mode and become invisible. Sometimes they deliberately put themselves in vibrate mode and go under cover.
It is unclear as to exactly where these objects want to escape to. Their destination is often a well-kept secret. They seem to be biding their time before they finally make their move. Most of the times when you eventually find them, they are under the cushion of the couch with their faces covered. Two remotes and cell phone lie there, clinging onto themselves for their dear lives, crushed and squeezed between two cushions. The moment we locate them and say "ah! there you are" they seem to put on innocent faces and act as if they actually got lost. "No mister! we were just eating the crumbs that fell off your plate and we fell down" they say to us and show the dosai crumbs smeared on them as proof. Who would believe them? They are trying to get away. We know that. Like the other day, I found out that my cell phone had got away as far as my car and was hiding under the driver's seat ready to drive away to another place. We know that they want to get away. Humans have caught on to that secret. However, where they want to go - that still eludes us.
The cell phone clearly wants to take my car with it as it escapes. That much is clear. Because it took my car keys along with it. It took my wallet and driver's license too. Its planning on robbing me. That is for sure. What I am terribly concerned about is that it wants to alienate my wife from me and elope with her. An idea that, disconcertingly enough, she is not so averse to at the moment. For example - a few hours before I located my cell phone trying to get away with my car, I noticed that my car keys were missing. Car keys are dangerous slithery little creatures that man has ever known. They are mean and ruthless. Sometimes it stays in the car and locks itself in. So now you need car keys to get to the car keys. No other object can boast of this kind of recursion. It is some sort of a space-time warp within itself. I found out that my car keys were missing while searching for my wallet. That is when I uncovered this hideous plot where a bunch of remotes, cell phone and car keys were trying to rob me of my wealth and family. Sure enough my wallet was gone too. Where do I find it ? Under the driver's seat. Next to the cell phone.
What irks me about these creatures is that they make me look like a fool in front of my wife. Sometimes they cling on to me as if I am some sort of a escape vehicle and they drop themselves into the fridge, bathroom shelf, cupboard etc like the way these soldiers parachute out from an airplane into enemy territory. They use me to plan their escape routes. Would you believe it if I said my remote-control used me to get as far as the bathroom. They were near the wash basin running towards the commode when we caught them. My car key is especially evil this way. Once, I found my car keys inside my dishwasher. It is that cunning. Over time, their idea has been to humiliate me so much that my wife would lose her respect for me and begin to admire them for taunting me so much. Men have extra-ordinary search stamina when it comes to searching for car keys/phones/remotes. They search for a whole milli-second before alerting the search party. Since this relates to life, death and science - we yell "Houston! we have a problem".
After much persuasion this so called search party arrives at the scene of the crime. The search party, naturally the woman of the household, does not respect our tantrums. We know this is a big thing. We know that these things are trying to do away with our wealth. But the search party is not privy to this. So they look derisively at the man and say "So you've managed to lose it again". Something strange happens when the search party begin their operations. These objects - the villains that they are - quickly surrender themselves to the search party. They run out of their hiding places so quickly that it seems as if they were right under your noses - (or) under your laptop, under your unwashed tiffin plate, under your socks (which somehow has crawled all by itself on to the center table to aid these creatures) - all the time. The search party would then give the man that look. A look that would send the car keys into delirious raptures of joy. A look that would ultimately drive the cell phones to destroy mankind as we know it and set up its own world where humans try to escape them instead of the other way around.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
"What are we holding onto, Sam? "
"That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for. "