Friday, November 29, 2002

the big american holiday, a bond fest and ... a haunted house revisited (reverse chronological order)

The whole nation (the US of A) celebrated Thanksgiving, a commemoration of the feast shared by the Pilgrims and Indians that has now become "a great time to be with family" (which is a unique idea in this country of isolation and independence) and to cut up several instances of meleagris gallopavo (pronounced: mel-e-ay-gris gal-low-pay-voe) yesterday. As is always the case, history textbooks have toned down the true nature of the 'feast' and its aftermath (a subsequent slaughter of the Indians) -- like inmates taking over the asylum -- which makes the festival like celebrating the war of Vietnam with a float parade. Today (Friday) kicks off the pre-Christmas shopping season, with fantastic[sic] offers at stores in the early hours of the morning. All chain stores offering electronics, home products and clothing will be packed with people from all classes of society walking about with overstuffed large shopping carts standing in line to charge obscene amounts to their credit cards and then dump their wares into owned/rented/borrowed SUVs and RVs. Squak!

Last year I got my first pairs of American shoes: a pair of Adidas sports made in China and a pair of Skechers. {reference | reference}

I celebrated[sic] Thanksgiving with TNN's Bond movie marathon (yes, being a good couch potato -- which is what I probably would have done even back home) and listening to music. Dinner at a friend's place in the evening ensured that I got my supply of seasonal turkey.

Caught The Others (and special features) on Wednesday. Can't talk too much about the dynamics of the plot of this excellent 'haunted house' nugget without spoiling the nifty twist. There's a strong competitor in The Sixth Sense, which had a bigger budget and still ended up looking cheaper (remember the boom mike hanging down in one of the scenes?). The other competitor is a perhaps obscure British film called Haunted. Great performances enhance the creepy atmosphere of this artsy atmospheric scare-a-do as do the location (Spain), the technical contingent and the music (composed by director Alejandro -- pronounced a-la-haan-dro -- Amenábar himself). I loved the kids and their dialogue. Besides, I have a soft corner for talented foreign filmmakers who make English films -- their work affords the language a respect and dignity that English/American-speaking directors often miss out on, taking it for granted. Other examples include Michaelangelo Antonioni's Blowup and Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


The first Pune International Film Festival opens on Friday, November 29, 2002 {at the same time, half way around the globe, desis and other South-Asians with join Americans of all races and creeds in a capitalist binge as they line up to pack stores across the United States in the day-after-thanksgiving sale}. Former Amitabh Bachchan shadow player/disillusioned Osho-ite/B-ham and current minister of state for tourism (recently starred in Leela, a movie shot completely in the US of A and catering to the NRIs aka the Indian diaspora) and cultural affairs Vinod Khanna ... {read more}

Related: Upperstall's review of Leela
laugh out loud

Guess what the King of Pop, multiple-rhytidectomy specialist Michael Jackson hates ... pop music. {read on}

If SpiderMan were filmed in Bollywood, then it *might* look a bit like this. Pardon the Middle-Eastern touch in the music though ... {link courtesy: blogdex/Chris}
robin hood -- southern style

extract from the New York Times (with my emphasis):
A city utility employee in LaGrange was arrested on charges of stealing from business customers to help the poor pay their bills. The worker, Cassandra Dickerson, 34, was charged with stealing $3,000 from the LaGrange Department of Utilities, where she had worked for about a year. Investigators said she diverted payments from businesses to help people who were behind on payments or needed deposits to get gas, water or electrical service.. Based on my rather uneven experiences with utility companies, I owe an iota support for her feelings ... I still think theft is wrong ... but I'd dare to classify what the utility companies indulge in as white collar crime. Classic case of stealing from the thieves ... but then, we live in a society governed by a framework of law that is wordy and complex to facilitate correctness (and circumvention as a side effect)... {link courtesy: Chris}

gate of truth

Saw Rashomon again. Distorted reality, false flashbacks, simple yet intriguing plotting, Japanese expressionism: it's all there in this great film. Special features: Robert Altman talks about the influence this film has had on him, a bio-minipic on Akira (pronounced A-kee-ya) Kurosawa's cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa.

Got a couple of books from AFPL too: Is That A Gun In Your Pocket?, Rachel Abramowitz's look at women in power in Hollywood; and Colonel Sun, Kingley Amis' sole and admirable contribution to the James Bond written canon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

primal deewangee

Deewangee had caught my attention when the plot sent a postmodern shudder of déjà vu up my spine. Turns out that not only did Anees Bazmee and Co. regurgitate the plot of the film, but they also filched a song used on the soundtrack of the source! Ismail Darbar's composition ai ajnabee borrows merrily from Dulce Ponte's rendition of Canção Do Mar by Frederico de Brito and Ferrer Trinidade. Could this be Bollywood's first Fado song?

Monday, November 25, 2002

saving tintin

Tintin is slated to make the transition to the silver screen and Steven Spielberg (last seen attempting something like this with Hook). Tintin (like Asterix) seems to work best for me as a cartoon character ... can't bear to see some acne-plagued teenager (dude!) wandering around with an orange plume on his head ... accompanied by the sensuous strings of John Williams ...
{link courtesy: Vivek}

tower rocks

After some lunch at Maggiano's Corner Bakery I finally got a chance to visit the new improved spacious ostentatious awesome Tower Records store in Buckhead. Truly a store for people with eclectic taste and a penchant for used CDs (the latter being a rather general characteristic -- CDs are overpriced anyways...). Got myself a good little haul:

* Blaxpoitation 4: Harlem Hustle {a 2 CD compilation of soul, funk and groove tracks from the likes of The Temptations, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Earth Wind and Fire, Herbie Hancock, Marvin Gaye and The Delfonics}

* The Beatles/Anthology 2: The best pick of the lot. Finding this in the used CD bin is a godsend. The original item is priced high enough to be unaffordable and the prices on eBay skyrocket to absurdity. If only Volume III would appear ...

* Swaraj: Purchased purely on instinct, this is a compilation of South Asian club/DJ mixes including a remix of Maye ni Maye from Hum Aapke Hain Koun.... My favourite track is Path of the Blazing Sarona by Ravi Harris -- a nice mix of funk bass and interesting percussion patterns. {listing}

Saturday, November 23, 2002

bond lives ... to die another day

Finally, Pierce Brosnan gets to make the character of 007 his own in the 20th Bond flick (celebrating 40 years of the "official" Broccoli enterprise) Die Another Day. The series finally gets off the Ian Fleming literary source and this is perhaps the first movie that has very little to do with the novels and their mythology. The title (like Tomorrow Never Dies) has no grain in the books (The World Is Not Enough was the motto of the Bond family: see the book/movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service). There are the usual double entendres -- some make you smile, and there are some you expect, and some that just make you groan (more on this later). There are a lot of references as the film pays homage to the series, and they're quite easy to spot too (see note at the end). Brosnan makes Bond vulnerable, human and yet doesn't allow the character to lose it's suave, sardonic, flippant edge (something that Lazenby failed to do ... and Dalton was completely submerged in the high sorrow-and-suffering coefficient of his two ventures). The motif of choice is ice -- be it in the film, the previews, the credit graphics and even the in-theatre ambience. The theatre (Regal) had "007" in 'ice' font on all the doors and there were ice blocks outside the complex when we made our way to the parking lot ... Interesting touch. The opening titles are a nice blend of traditional Bond nudes against CGI set against the continuing narrative (something I don't recall having seen before ... I could be wrong). Then there's the bullet coming out to hit you in Maurice Binder's legendary introduction for Bond (I wonder if this is the first film to do that or whether it's something that was added to the Brosnan canon). John Cleese reprises his role as the new Q, and in getting the best line of the film, makes up for the rather poor characterization he faced in TWINE.

The film isn't without it's share of non grata. Madonna's theme song sucks -- as a Bond song. It's a Madonna pop song with oodles of hip-hop/new-wave electronica to assert her compliance with current trends. Which means it sucks on all levels. "I'm gonna avoid the cliché" she sings. Well she sure succeeded -- in a terrible way. The font used for the opening titles was rather ordinary and failed to complement the 'icy' nudes. Madonna's song worked better against the end credits, but by then the damage was done. The CGI in some scenes is painfully obvious -- especially when Bond surfs a tidal wave -- the ice mounds look straight out of Hallmark greeting cards. {david arnold about madonna's theme song}

But we must save the best for last. I smelt something rotten in the film and it was called Halle Berry. Clearly added (along with the grating aging decrepit Madonna) for American attitude and appeal. She lacks spunk, sucks at her lines (making the bad lines sound terrible and destroying all the good ones), misses her cues destroying the timing of the rejoinders written for her. Everyone in the supporting cast (except Madonna, who, to be fair, is there only for a short while, giving her no chance to trump Halle for the Worst Actor award) including the third American token ably done by Michael Madsen rocks (no pun intended). But Halle is as uncomfortable as Kate Hepburn in a van Damme vehicle -- actually, to keep the analogy accurate, make that like Steven Segal in a Shakespeare adaptation. In awarding her the Oscar for Best Actress the Academy seems to have committed the most socially, filmologically, racially offensive act in a long time. And much as I would have loved to write this film off as a clear strong entry in the series, Halle makes it Berry Bad. Rumours of a spinoff Jinx (her character's rather appropriate name in the film) vehicle abound. Expect to see BellSouth and other consumer-friendly utility providers to complete the irony with corporate advertising. She dingles.

The best little dig (note: triviamongers) comes when Bond picks up A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming named his secret agent after one of the authors of this book.

movies can teach you things you know: Thanks to this film I now know about conflict diamonds ...

other reviews: the new york times, roger ebert.

bonus: To prepare us for a good time we had a preview of a new Chow Yun Fat action flick called ... wait for it ... Bulletproof Monk {official site}. What are they going to think of next? Non-flammable Nun?

Illayaraaja pips to the top

In a rather surprising turn of events, Illayaraaja's Rakamma (from Mani Rathnam's 1991 cop-robber bloodfest Dalapathi) topped a worldwide poll for the most popular song on the planet. I can imagine the Japanese, big Rajnikant fans that they are, to be dancing all night in celebration over this. It's hard to believe the fairness of this poll -- electronic booth capturing is a plausible explanation for the poll. After all it's probably only a web cookie that the poll managers used. And who can stop a horde of loyal fans from skewing the results. Poll results must always be taken with a grain of salt (which is tough to do if you agree with the results). On a related note: Anand Milind (regular bulk consumers of Illayaraaja's music) appropriated the song for their Tu tu tu in David Dhawan's doppelganger commercial blockbuster Bol Radha Bol.

Friday, November 22, 2002

friday blues

time ticks away ... have to be somewhere ... stuck at the desk ... staring at the screen ... it's Friday ...
pun fun

This is just what the doctor ordered: Puns Galore is a search engine for ... wait for it ... puns! Definitely worth a look.
run pelle run

Caught Pelle the Conqueror, although I wasn't paying too much attention. Wrong kind of movie, wrong time. Good performances from Pelle Hvenegaard and Max von Sydow.

Thursday, November 21, 2002


Check out this talented infant {link courtesy: Aditya}


With Die Another Day nearing release date (Friday, Nov 22), TNN has started off a series of classic Bond re-runs hosted by the reticent Pierce Brosnan and the keener Halle Berry. Caught The Spy Who Loved Me yesterday and realised how little of the film I remembered. It's one of the best (imho) Bond films not based on an Ian Fleming book. Well, yes they used the title, but the film has zero, nil, nada to do with the plot of the book (which is in itself a misfit in that lineup). The sequence where Karl Stromberg sends his secretary to the sharks for treachery foreshadows the extended sequences in Ramesh Sippy's technically-slick (by Indian standards) box-office dud Shaan.

Made a mini haul at AFPL just as a break from the drizzle and the descending dark

* Shickel on Film/Richard Schickel

* Red Harvest/Dashiell Hammett (audio book)

* Dashiell Hammett omnibus/Dashiell Hammett

* Transition/John Coltrane

* Halloween sound effects

* All the Other Things I Really Need To Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation/Dave Marinaccio: This is a great quick funny read that is accessible even to people with only a marginal awareness of the award-winning cult TV series.

Thanks to TCM, I caught A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. Had to turn in early, which is why I could only catch the opening of the final film in Leone's spaghetti western trilogy with the variously-named Man with No Name (Joe, Monco, Blondie). From such a viewing of the films one after the other, it is clear to see the effects of an increased budget on the vision and ambition of Leone. While the first film can seem stagey at times, Leone is a man who loves to build canvases and set things up for us. Check the openings of each of the three films in chronological order. Of course we must forgive the unfortunate circumstances that films like these were made in: Eastwood spoke in English while the Italian cast stuck to their Italian (wild west indeed!) and the dubbing leaves lot to be desired. The former was based on Kurosawa's Yojimbo, which was an uncredited screen version of Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op novel Red Harvest. Walter Hill's 1996 remake Last Man Standing set the same narrative in a Prohibition era ghost town (Jericho, Texas) with Bruce Willis as the gunslinger caught between the two warring gangs: one Irish and the other Italian (homage?). The second Leone film seems the obvious inspiration for the 1985 Sunny Deol-Anil Kapoor flick Joshilay, whose directorial credit was bestowed on Sibte Hasan Rizvi after Shekhar Kapur (whose career is peppered with half-finished/abandoned projects) left the film midway.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

santana makes bollywood film composing début

Well, technically, not our man Carlos who last contributed to the soundtrack of Rahul Bose's directorial dé Everybody Says I'm Fine {as a cross-plug here's nidhi's review of the film}. Instead, we have the offspring of Shravan Rathod (and nephews of singer Vinod Rathod), member of the "inspired" composer duo Nadeem-Shravan reviving Smooth/Corazon Espinado. Maybe it's my imagination, but I can hear Santana all over Deewana Deewana from Rishtey. And Udit Narayan with his inconsistent and errant ennunciations cannot claim to be even a passable desi adaptation of Shri Thomas of Matchbox Twenty for one. Perhaps it's just Sanjeev-Darshan crystallizing their ideas of latin pop...
our man flint is no more

Tough guy James Coburn passed away yesterday at the age of 74.

obits: ABC News, the Miami Herald

Monday, November 18, 2002

rude ... but enough to send you rolling over in the aisles

The HisTory of Michael Jackson's face is a photographic history of MJ's face ... right up to the present, where an unfortunate in-court rhytidectomy put Wes Craven, Sam Raimi and the guys at Hammer films to shame. {link courtesy: james}
a couple of social evenings, some music and moroccan chicken

Aside from the rain and severe drop in temperature (severe with respect to prevailing weather conditions, mind you, not based on the plight of the people up north), it's been a relaxing weekend.

We had two social get-togethers at our home, with me in the role of resident guest (as also assistant to the host). That covered the evenings of Friday and Saturday. Dinner comprised tortilla chips, cheese dips, soda, brownies, salted peanuts and tiramisu. Needless to say, there were quite a few trips to the restroom to address the issue of inundated bladders.

Saturday was a day of firsts. I won my first CD (read: my first anything) in the US, courtesy the Asian Variety Show that airs on PAX every Saturday morning. The CD: Adnan Sami's new album Tera Chehra. Thanks to Chris (once again) I also got my first Beatles CDs: Revolver and The White Album.

The Indian eating place of choice to add a bright spot to a bleak rainy Saturday was Daabha in Smyrna. Best ambience and layout I've seen for an "Indian café in Atlanta". Harked back to the days at Smoking Joe's back home in Pune. Except for the standard American ceiling, everything clicked. And the food was good too -- try out the chicken hariyali kabab if you're tired of chicken 65 and the like. Songs from Rangeela, Dil Chahta Hai and finally Dil (which incidentally featured in the muzak for one our previous Indian outings, Annapurna).

Finally finished watching Out of Sight with the accompanying commentary track featuring Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank. I'd recommend this commentary track. Lots of trivia, in-jokes, and laughs as the two consciously mock each other, everyone in the film as well as the convention of doing a commentary track {To paraphrase them: "here we go again ... two white guys sitting down to talk about a DVD ...}. I also caught an AMC documentary on the Alien movies. It was great to see H. R. Giger on screen (I've never seen him before) and also to know that he was actually involved in the production of the movie.

I discovered the joys of the slow cooker yesterday. My inaugural effort was moroccan chicken. Add the ingredients, start the cooker off, go to sleep and return in the morning. Low-effort, low-cost. Of course, for some weird reason, the moroccan component seems to have either (a) left the building (b) forgotten to assert itself.

Friday, November 15, 2002

open source suckfest...and some bad coffee

maybe it's me ... maybe i'm just having a bad week ... i've been staring at terminal windows for the last couple of days working with some of the premier products of the open source world: apache and tomcat. First, I couldn't find either an RPM or a Linux binary archive for the latest version of Apache: 2.0.43. Not finding an RPM is understandable, but then the absence of a binary for Linux (arguably the most popular platform for Apache) is suspect. Of course, I could get the source archive and compile it and install it. Sure, but I'm not enjoying a day at the beach... I have deadlines here. Software exploration is not something you do on work time. And I can't bear to sit up late staring at a display and going into trance mode over scrolling lines dumped by the build process.

I finally find some binary RPMs (yay Google...<censored> to Apache). But the installation paths are completely different and the RPM extraction to a temporary folder does not work. Clearly, you see, it is not my day. Finally, I decide to venture into building my own binary RPM starting with the .spec file based on the source RPM (consoling myself that there was always the possibility of self-improvement). Now RPM is a widely used package management system that came out of RedHat. Of course, as one may expect, some of the subtleties are not obvious (duh! that's why they're subtle..yes, yes) {like the "remember that your java source file should have the same name as the class it contains" ... double duh!}. Things like these seem obvious to those in the know but are quite frustrating to débutante practitioners of the art of modular coffee.

So I finally manage to construct the RPM. Of course, I've already installed Apache the hard way. Next up, Tomcat. There's an RPM (hurrah!) and the default installation works. Except for the documentation, which refers to non-existent scripts and versions older than the one I have. Bah! Then the big step, getting the two to work together (for those who are interested in the technical details: get Tomcat to serve JSPs and servlets and leave Apache to manage all static HTML). This has surely been attempted by several people out there, yet documentation is sparse, varied, and laden with conflict. As the sun sets, my enthusiasm for this new exciting[sic] technology has hit new lows. With everything going XML, our friends in the Apache forge have decided to hop onto the wagon. This is scary, at best, and horrifying at worst. Remember how Apache got its name? Well, (officially) out of respect for the Apache tribe. The popular story involves "A PAtCHy server" based on existing code and some 'patch' files. Clearly the foundation is one of cure and fixes and not of prevention. I'm sure the innards of the new XML-ized modular avatars of software emanating from the foundation are still as patchy as they used to be. The modular front is just that -- a front. To be fair, some of the software is really cool (like ant, which is an XML camp dude's simplified version of a Makefile -- with semantic tagging and all that sugary stuff that gets people all up these days). But there's too much of pushing XML where complexity can escalade.I finally abandoned my attempts at getting the [step]children of the Apache Foundation to talk to each other and decided to go ahead with just the feline teenager.

Next up, deploying a J2EE web archive (known in the Java-intoxicated community as a WAR -- Web ARchive -- get it?. This again (sigh!) was easier said than done. All the documentation told me I was doing the right thing, but the software refused. And after all, the software is always right, not the documentation {I'm patenting this line ... no takers please!}. So I go about the old low-level way of moving files over and on to my next task: getting the stuff to work. Yes, I am now doing my best impression of Sisyphus. So the documentation on the "official" sites didn't help much. If the provided sample application flunks, what more can a poor guy like me do? Finally, a friendly tip and a pointer to a book helped! The wonders of indirection.

I'm probably being over-critical about Java -- but it's the hype that gets my goat (bleat bleat!). For all its claims at solving problems in software development and allowing developers and corporates to focus on business logic instead of code. Well, Java brought in added baggage: a new way of coding and thinking. And a lot (and I stress that: a lot) of Java programmers have a background like mine: imperative programming (C) and hacky modular coding (C++). Few among the crowd would invest time in "unlearning" their ways or adapting an alternative route to understand Java better and use it appropriately and to their advantage. The result: a storm of buzz words and code that's worse than the C/C++ code slew that Java aims to quell. There's a lot of cool stuff happening in the OO world and a lot of it is in Java. But it's happening too fast. The "smart" suits are extracting new lingo and the "smart" technical jeans are getting some more meat in their sandwich, but learning never got onto the boat. Sayonara education. Lay out the red carpet for some coffee: it's strong and we're out of milk and sugar.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

the great illusion

would have been the title of Renoir's masterpiece had they translated it correctly. This and more in the lovely commentary by Peter Cowie accompanying the film. Finally, after long last, here's good commentary that gently mixes cast bios and observations about the scenes in the film to provide cogent (in my opinion) evidence of this being a classic film. There are several heart-rending moments that are presented with simplicity and dignity, avoiding the maudlin mush. Highly recommended. And no, it doesn't feel long. If you're looking for mindless formulaic entertainment go watch Half Past Dead instead.

Got a couple of books from AFPL too:

* Suspects/David Thomson: A great book of well-etched bios of famous people in film fiction by one of the most under-rated film critics around.

* Hooked/Pauline Kael: Another collection of caustic outpourings from the Grand Lady of American Film journalism.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

a grand illusion

We started watching Renoir's acclaimed La Grande Illusion yesterday. A WWI film that was classified as propaganda by the Germans during WWII, this is a simple moving account of people torn between sentimentalities and duty. Inspiring countless movie sequences (digging the escape tunnel in The Great Escape, the singing of La Marseillaise in Casablanca), this film makes all its points succinctly: choosing to delve not on the politics of war or the futility of it, but on destroying any illusions that people of like social stature on either side would continue to subscribe to the same morals of human behaviour (Roger Ebert seems to agree). The film has been on a lot of "classic film" lists and the reasons for that may escape a majority of people. Don't look for bravura technical wizardry (è la Citizen Kane or Vertigo) or bold deviations from conventions of narrative and plot (Last Year at Marienbad). Look instead for unobtrusive filmmaking that creates believable characters out of what might have easily been jingoistic clichéd stereotypes). The influence of this approach is evident on a lot of Indian parallel filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Govind Nihalani. Several moments in the film also reminded me of the old B&W Hindi films that I caught on the tube (these were the days when DoorDarshan aka Indian National Television opted for good considerate programming in the absence of the mixed bag of satellite television).

Monday, November 11, 2002

browse the internet ...without anyone seeing what you're up to

people think of the damnedest things. Ghostzilla is a "camouflage web browser" which assures "total privacy" of browsing... "it renders Web pages to look indistinguishable from your work screen"...

Sunday, November 10, 2002

weekend flashback

A school/college friend stayed over for the weekend, which meant

(a) Lots of memories (good and bad) from school and college

(b) Eating out (old places like El Azteca, Dante's down the hatch and The Vortex on Peachtree)

(c) Sight seeing (old haunts like Little Five Points)

Friday, November 08, 2002

new screen

Screen is sporting a new look and feel for their web content. The disadvantage: more mouse clicks to get to the article you want. Here are my picks for this weekend's edition -- the focus is on sensuality projected in Indian cinema over the years and especially in the present.

* Indian cinema continues to be coy about the portrayal of erotica on screen... Bhawana Somaaya explores the outlet that historicals and period pictures have provided, while Devesh Sharma ploughs through The Kissing Fields.

* Sometime, somewhere revisits Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, one of Diwali's biggest box-office extravaganzas, and there's a related featurette on the music of the film (which had Jatin-Lalit dishing oodles of resampled RD Burman material, packaged in enough candy and soda-bubblegum pop to top the charts)

* Dev Anand talks to Rajiv Vijaykar about the late S. D. Burman (Halloween marked his 27th death anniversary).


Thursday, November 07, 2002


opened a new branch in Georgetown Square on Chamblee Dunwoody road and we made it the venue for the desi meet yesterday evening. Good food, although my filling Mexican afternoon forced me to stick with a quesadilla (which was also a tad more generous than I had expected).

Nuevo Laredo Cantina

Is a nice Mexican restaurant hidden on Chattahoochee Avenue off Howell Mill Road. Although the mole is recommended, I settled for a chicken burrito, which is mouth-watering and filling (and the rice is just great!). The only damper was a rather loud accident just outside the place as we waited our turn (yes, there's a long wait for lunch).
desi onion

Months of research and development by a team of India's top physicists have resulted in an ambitious plan to get them the hell out of the overcrowded, impoverished nuclear powderkeg...{the Onion reports}.
bond ... and pig's blood

With Die Another Day just round the corner, ads have flooded all television channels (including the overplayed Circuit City ad featuring the American father faking a British accent; Berry, Halle Berry for Revlon's new 007-inspired lineup). AMC had a neat little hour-long feature on the Bond girls, aptly titled Bond Girls Are Forever which had Maryam d'Abo (herself a Bond girl in The Living Daylights) chatting with the different Bond girls and the importance of being a Bond girl.

I finally saw Carrie, which is replete with all the trademarks of a Brian de Palma film: the split-screen, the Hitchcock references {the high school is called Bates School, a reference to Norman Bates in Psycho; the soundtrack by Pino Donaggio quotes a theme from Herrmann's score for Psycho; the blurry lensing that abounds (although this could also be interpreted as a reference to Vertigo); the slow motion sequences}. There's something about most pre-1990 Brian de Palma films I've seen: they all seem to have been made cheaply, or else I've been duped into viewing bad prints.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

the desi version masters

Just noticed Anees Bazmee's latest directorial venture Deewangee topping a few movie charts. I have no idea how the film is doing back home, but I'm sure there are a lot of desis in the United States who are flocking to their local Indian stores to grab the DVD or VHS-created-from-DVD at low prices. Only the utopian faithfuls would rush to the theatres to catch the big-screen glory of a strictly run-of-the-mill destined-for-cable rip-off.

Anees Bazmee emulates Vikram Bhat by consistently presenting Hollywood releases, both mainstream and less common flicks, wrapped in oily, greasy, carbon-heavy newsprint and topped with the desi masala of anachronistic inappropriateness (songs, dances) and vintage seasoning (clichés). The two have patented a delicious Indian schezwan delicacy that mixes essential bare-bones ingredients from a variety of sources (read: foreign films). In the business and IT research worlds, this is referred to as 'data integration'.

Bhat is famous for his original flicks like Fareb (Unlawful Entry), Ghulam (On the Waterfront and Raging Bull), Kasoor (The Jagged Edge), Raaz (What Lies Beneath),and Awara Paagal Deewana (The Whole Nine Yards and The Matrix). Bazmee has made two films, the second of which, Pyar to Hona Hi Tha was a local take on French Kiss. He now takes on the Richard Gere-Ed Norton box-office success Primal Fear, mixes it with Cape Fear, adds the incongruous songs and dances and the hackneyed dialogue, packages it well (honestly, the preview was slick) and presents the mostly unwary audience with a "different" film. Mr. Bazmee, as can be expected, vehemently denies the inspiration, and states that the grain for the film came from the real-life tragedy involving the murder of music baron Gulshan Kumar. True to his word, he has transplanted the religious crime into the world of music. Wonder when this will end...

Out here in the States, new releases are a healthy mix of the conventional run-of-the-mill genre films as well as a crop of interesting movies (coming up: Star Trek: Nemesis, The Hours, Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale). The fate of such movies is, as always, uncertain, but the fact that they actually get made is a consolation.

Interestingly enough, Primal Fear was directed by Gregory Hoblit, who made Fallen, a film that I caught when it did the rounds on Star Movies back home. I wasn't the only one who caught it though. When ad film maker Rakesh Mehra decided to make his directorial début he chose to interpret (read: mooch) this conflict of good and evil with quotes from the Bhagvad Gita and slick technical finesse, but the usual glaringly unwanted songs and dances, along with inappropriately over-the-top performances from everyone concerned (except Amol Palekar, who pays for this trangression by getting bumped off in the opening sequence).

Tuesday, November 05, 2002


Yet another web traveller found my blog today: however, this time, Clement and I have a lot in common: Films, Kerala, Pune. Give his blog a visit while you're here.

Monday, November 04, 2002

diehl, leonard and a visit to lumberton

Made a trip to AFPL on my way home to pick up some more "popular fiction".

* Show of Evil/William Diehl {the sequel to Primal Fear}

* Reign in Hell/William Diehl {the third and final Martin Vail book}

* Sharky's Machine/William Diehl {I must confess, his books are page-turners and perfect reads for my commute to and from work}

* Out of Sight/Elmore Leonard {I had to get the book after I saw the movie. This will also be my first Leonard book}

* Rum Punch/Elmore Leonard {source material for Tarantino's tribute to the blaxploitation era, Jackie Brown}

We cancelled our South Asian Writers Group meeting for lack of quorum (a lot of people are making trips home) and settled down to watch Blue Velvet instead. This has David Lynch sharpening his claws and is good preparation for his awesome opus last year, Mulholland Drive. Apart from being the first collaboration of Badalamenti and Lynch, the film is also interesting for showcasing Lynch's unique artistic style and his fondness for the quirks of human behaviour and situations, and the heady mix of film styles. Lynch employs the style and mood of film noir to explore the dark underworld of his seemingly peaceful virginal hometown (depicted as nostalgic, dreamlike and pastoral via a hybrid of a 50s B-movie and a teenage romance). The film is worthy of the cult status it has achieved over the years, although it lacks the tightness of some of Lynch's later works (Mulholland Drive, in particular).

Special features on the DVD include Mysteries of Love, a decent "behind-the-scenes" documentary featuring dust puppies, an accessible enumeration of the benefits of widescreen, insights on the Bobby Vinton song that gives the film its title, and some bad video captures of Lynch as he talks about his inspiration and process on the film. The documentary takes its title from a song that Lynch wrote for the film. Also on the DVD is the snippet from the Siskel and Ebert show where Ebert slammed the film (and Lynch along with it) while Siskel defended it. Ebert's review includes some of the issues he had with it.

There are some rather unfortunately noticeable gaffes in the film: Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) has an amazingly regenerative complexion considering how fast his wounds heal in the course of the film; there's the case of Jeffrey Beaumont's vanishing and reappearing earrings. I also wonder why Sandy (Laura Dern) is wearing a wedding ring.

This is one of Dennis Hopper's best roles -- it would appear that he was born to play the helium-sniffing ritualistic rapist Frank Booth. After all, it is quite an achievement for him to essay a role without saying "dude" or "man" either implicitly or explicitly. This was his first role after he got out of rehab, and the change is welcome. Frank Booth is one of the most terrifying, disgusting and evil entities you would never want to know.

Related: A detailed walkthrough of the film

online radio stream as a reflection of mood

Time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities.

I was so hard to please.
Look around,
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

------Bookends / Simon & Garfunkel
what does google think of you?

This is a cleaner more time-efficient way of egosearching on Google: will find out what Google "thinks of you, your friends or anything!". This is what I got for myself. A few excerpts:

george thomas is as fun to watch as the real travolta himself

george thomas is an extraordinary individual who continues to rise to life's challenges with determination and drive

george thomas is the best friend america has in india

george thomas is optimistic that his team can rebound from a tough fall season to capture that elusive tournament bid
sick of tele-marketers ?

Try out this counterscript {found on the OTHER blog}
the new face of blogdex

Just caught the new UI of blogdex. I have been guilty of not visiting it as frequently as I used to (the pressures of work). I have a soft spot for the old UI though...
milkplus: a droog on films

Got an email some time ago from Timothy Eagon who maintains MilkPlus, a film discussion blog. Quite an interesting selection of films. Feel free to stop by, and drop a note while you're there.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Modestly priced satisfying lunch buffet at Annapurna, on Indian Trail Road. The place was in day four under a new management, which explained the empty dining hall, but don't let that prevent you from sampling their collection of Gujarati and Bengali dishes.

Out of Sight. Atlanta-born Steven Soderbergh and his able cast (including, I must say, Ms. Lopez) does wonders with Elmore Leonard's novel. This helps to compensate for the unforgiveable damage he wrought with fellow-Georgian Julia Roberts in the Oscar suck-fest called Erin Brockovich.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

South Indian Cafe: Wonderfully-priced Special Lunch Buffet topped with welcome homely coffee (as opposed to the blend-laden world of conventional bitter/strong/assembly-line coffee).

Autofocus: Much ado about something. Paul Schrader uses the tragic story of Bob "Hogan's Heroes" Crane to exorcise his personal demons and revisit his favourite themes. Great performances by Kinnear and Dafoe (who will again, I fear, miss an Oscar nod). The opening titles are a welcome relief from the mundane. Electronic mood composer Angelo Badalamenti has precious little space to make his presence felt. The Sunset Boulevard-ish device of having a dead man provide the narrative fits the title aptly. The closing moments of the film destroy any good that may have come out of this enterprise by clearly pointing to John Carpenter as Crane's killer (the case remains unsolved). While he is completely justified in focussing on the "special" relationship between Crane and Carpenter, Paul Schrader lost the benefits of ambiguity by cheaply incriminating Carpenter (Oliver Stone did a better job with providing us with a choice of culprits in JFK).

Friday, November 01, 2002

Run Lola Run: Great movie. Cool soundtrack. And it's fun to catch the tiny differences across the different timescapes.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Aching verity

On Sunday, October 20, 2002, Indian Masala on WREK included producer Harry Anand's (brother of Hindi film music composer Anand Raaj Anand) Thoda resham lagta hai. This remix rabble is the rather under-discussed item in the Truth Hurts affair. Harry Anand's take on the long-lost Bappi Lahiri composition was released on his UMI-10 series (volume 3 to be precise) and -- wait for it -- was based on the Addictive/Dr. Dre version of the song, rather than the original Hindi film song. Now Ms. Mangeshkar and King Plagiarist Bappi Lahiri are both filing lawsuits against Dre and Co. This could pose some interesting issues for Mr. Anand.


RMIM Post discussing Harry Anand's remix

Listen online to Anand's remix {the title of interest is kaliyon ka chaman}

Bappi sues: The lawsuit charges American producers (including Dre) with practicing a form of "cultural imperialism" by not crediting Third World artists.. Titter, titter.

The Most Common, Fastest, & Easiest Way to Copyright Your Tunes

Footnote: The model in the video for kaliyon ka chaman is meghana naidu, a UK-settled lass from down south. {information posted on RMIM}

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