Monday, November 29, 2004

Nothing is more reliable than a man whose loyalties can be bought with hard cash

[november 28, 2004]

Ever since his exile from the US of A to escape the charges of molestation, Roman Polanski has been an interesting case study in constrained filmmaking. The occasional need to find alternatives would almost liken him to Orson Welles, who would take up acting assignments and the like to be able to fund portions of his movies, scenes of which were often conceived and filmed based on where Welles was at the time, and the resources he had at his disposal. Polanski seems to be doing better than Welles, though, because each film he has made since he fled has garnered just about as much media attention as it would have had he still been in the US of A. While The Pianist was Polanski's way of dealing with the demons of his past (call it his Schindler's List if you like, but shorn of the schmaltz and comfortable grief that Spielberg showers his films with), The Ninth Gate takes him (and viewers) back to the creepy classic Rosemary's Baby. Johnny Depp wonderfully goes through the motions of his character with the ease that you have come to expect of him. The film's narrative is not very complex, and the denouement was a tad unsatisfying. Yet, there was enough there to keep me from doubting Polanski's ability to deliver the goods. A curious thing about the DVD: there were no subtitles, but it came with a director's commentary track. Quite unsettling and inconvenient. Onward to a mix of personal notes based on the film and the commentary:

* The pre-credit sequence is a classic mix of stretched tension, economy of speech (in fact, nothing is spoken at all) and attention to detail: when a part of the chandelier comes loose to shower some plaster onto the floor, you almost expect the suicide attempt to fail.

* The opening credits play against the first-person journery of the camera through nine gates. They appear just like streetlights and signs on road dividers, except at a much slower rate. The title of the film appears last, just before the ninth gate. The gate then opens up to a flash of light that fades into a view of a city skyline, which, as the camera pulls back, turns out to be a view from a window.

* As Bernie makes an appreciative comment about the copy of The Nine Gates, the camera pulls away slowly from his left to draw our attention to the window behind him (this is a basement room, so the window looks out on the street), where, in focus, we see a pair of feet clad in formal shoes (with formal pants to match) walking away to the left of the screen; a cigarette falls, and just as we see some smoke rise from the lit end, a pair of sneakers (matched with a pair of blue jeans) appears from the right, the cigarette is squashed, and this pair of feet follows the first one.

* The driver of the cab is a Sardarji, who has to mouth a lot of useless lines including the irritatingly repetitive "no problem, sir" (wonder if Polanski hated NY cabbies ...)

* Kilar's score is nicely creepy and even features a motif that sounds so familiar I wonder if Sandeep Chowta had ever discovered and filched it.

* There's a nice edit cut matching the flick of a switch to turn on the lights in a café that Depp's character is waiting in to shake off a tail

* The last credit in the acknowledgements section of the end credits reads: "intellectual properties management, atlanta, georgia as exclusive licensor of the king estate". An explanation of this is welcome.

* The film was shot on location in France, Portugal, Spain and at Studios d'Epinay, Paris.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Three Movies

dance with me [November 25/26, 2004]

Unfortunately, what worried me most about RGV's latest venture Naach were, paradoxically enough, the dances. Some of the slower drawn-out sequences (despite the potential for déjà vu) were engaging, but the full-fledged dances (backed by a soundtrack that has only evoked mixed reactions from me no matter how many times I listened to it) were a bit troublesome and tough to sit through. What works for the film comes from the performances of the lead pair: Abhishek Bachchan and Antara Mali (despite having nothing really appealing in her looks that would please the majority crowd). And Ritesh Deshmukh marks a step forward with a competent supporting performance as the potential third vertex in a triangle of emotions. Thematically, RGV returns to territory he last visited with Rangeela. I don't see this film matching that one's success, despite being closer to RGV's heart. Simply because the comparisons are inevitable, and because of the fickle mix of reasons that a film works. And the opening sequence is a clincher for those looking to make comparisons. Just like that film, we open with a scene in slow-motion (held for a longer while here) as Shweta Pandit's wonderful rendition of the beautifully arranged title track (love those conches!) fills our ears. The montage of dance ends with the fading rhythm track morphing into the ticking of a bedside alarm clock. The rest of the film evokes another classic about a couple torn apart by success, Abhimaan. Aside from the uncredited use of Riders on the Storm by The Doors, we have digs at film personalities like Subhash Ghai and Farah Khan. And then there's the in-joke with an unhappy director noting "ga.ndaa hai par dha.ndaa hai" about a song he has to picturise. And the short exchange during the climactic moments when the two are clear about how they feel about each other was nice:
abhinav (abhishek): ... tum bhii mujh se pyaar karatii ho?
revaa (antara): aur kyaa?

All said and done, while the overall experience is not a stupendous achievement, it's a good entry in the RGV canon.

merchants of the night [November 24-25, 2004]

Raat ke Saudagar marks a return to the world of Bs for your humble viewer. The film's narrative (for what it's worth) deals with Saudagar-esque (Ghai, not Sudhendu Roy) themes (friends who turn enemies thanks to misunderstandings blah blah), and was probably shot at night (thus giving you the title ... chuckle, chuckle). The cast boasts a roster that includes Suresh Oberoi, Mohan Joshi, Neena Gupta, Reema Lagu, Kiran Kumar, Kader Khan and Anant Mahadevan (who gets the award for best named character: shaaNyaa). On the bad song front we have Asha Bhonsle belting out "logo.n ne kahaa mujhe gu.D kii Daalii (##curfew## lag gayaa jab Thumak ke chalii)" for Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen. Bad lines like beTe, ham ne teraa naam baa.Nke is liye nahii.n rakhaa thaa ki ko_ii bhii tujhe TeDhaa\-baa.Nkaa kar ke Daal de abound. And then there's the following exchange between Kiran Kumar (KK) and Neena Gupta (NG):
KK: ham aaj raat aap ko apanaa (right hand pats his heart) mahamaan banaanaa chaahate hai.n
NG: (dons ghuu.NghaT) mahamaananawaazii kaa shukriyaa Thaakur saahab. lekin aa_ine pattharo.n ke mahamaan banakar TuuT jaayaa karate hai.n
KK: bahut khuub. bahut khuub raanii b(h)aaii. aap ke inakaar karane kii adaa hame.n pasa.nd aa_ii. magar ye mat bhuulo ki aa_iine agar pattharo.n ke mahamaan banakar TuuT jaate hai.n (deeper whisper) to pattharo.n se Takaraakar bhii TuuT jaayaa karate hai.n
NG: beshak Thaakur saahab. lekin Takaraakar TuuT jaane me.n aa_iine kaa Guruur to salaamat rah jaataa hai.

There's the usual abuse of stock music (the Betaab theme appears for one fight sequence, and the theme from Black Rain -- overused in Ghayal -- appears during another). And if you had to even dare to pick out a gaffe you could try the match-on-action issue when a corrupt politician looks to the left of the screen and calls out to Rakesh, and there's a cut to Rakesh entering from the right side of the screen.

The print I caught boasted random flashes of orange-red across portions of the film. This makes it very unlikely that a decent negative survives. So much for preservation for posterity.

to meet again... [November 22-23, 2004]

Revathy's Phir Milenge is a commendable sober entry in the small genre of films that revolve around the subject of AIDS (and the usual social stigma and ignorance associated with it). The echoes of Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia are undeniable. My problem with the film is just some of the acting and the casting. Salman Khan's image carries him through what isn't much of a performance. Shilpa Shetty narrowly escapes being a profoundly grating on-screen presence. Abhishek Bachchan continues to be sincere (and, as another plus, he even wrote his speech at the end). There's Revathy in a cameo as the doctor who makes the crucial discovery. Liked how Revathy used an edit to convey the extent of shock: when Dr. Rai Singh (Revathy) tells Tamanna (Shilpa) that she has AIDS, we cut to a snippet from the past when Tamanna was informed of the death of her parents in an accident. The association helps us understand the effect this new piece of bad news has on Tamanna. And I liked the diegetic use of khul ke muskuraa de (as a song played on the radio for a dedication). Nasser's appearance in the movie relies on his impressive on-screen presence and the dubbing talents of Ninaad Kamat (someone refresh my memory here ... why have I heard this name before?). And the film must surely merit a few points for featuring the classic tongue twister after a long long consideration we come to the conclusion that the matriculation examination is a big big botheration to the indian nation whose main occupation is cultivation. On the subtitle front, there is clearly no hope. I beseech you becomes I besiege you.

elsewhere: soundtrack notes

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

rollerball [november 22, 2004]

Rollerball, the original version directed by Norman Jewison starring James Caan, not the Stallone remake, presents us with yet another view of the future. Like The Running Man (the Bachman/King book, and the core of the screen adaptation starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), the main attraction of the future is a deathly sport called Rollerball, which combines ice hockey, motor-cross racing and American football. The game is designed so that the individual cannot possibly succeed. The current champion, and our protagonist, is Jonathan E, who is pushed to rebellion when he comes face-to-face with the prevalent corporate mechanics of the game. That last aspect rings so true when you consider the world of sport today, where it seems so much less about the game (hardly at all, in fact) and more about the products and brands endorsed, the breaks and timeouts that are coordinated for running commercials, and the associated marketing, memorabilia and gimmickry. It all ceases to be about the sport and the coordination of mind and body. This is one of the things that still give the film a certain viability despite the passing years. The other aspect is the extent to which corporates have grown and assumed more control in the future. While we have different cities associated with resources (Houston is the Energy City and Chicago is the Food City), we have the Energy Corporation, we also have the corporate anthem and the corporate hymn. We note that classified books are transcribed (by librarians at computer centres) and summarised. Then there's the detail about people firing at trees and blowing them up. Insanity rules at the conceptual and social level. Life has become a piece of controlled entertainment. And the entertainment is a giddy bike ride along the perimeter of the well of death.

Monday, November 22, 2004

who's yanni? /And if evil is your black design, you can bet the goodness of the Light Ones ... will kick your bad behind

Session 9 [november 21, 2004] rakes in points by the forest for atmosphere: lots of colour filters, moody performances, and grim proceedings. This is a film that doesn't tout or rely on either its narrative or its end, but in tow with them offers a surreal and nightmarish challenge to our perceptions of dream and reality. Director Brad Anderson also made The Machinist, but that's still in the queue.

Bubba Ho-Tep [November 22, 2004] is a wonderful mix of camp and high concept. With disbelief, you note that it's roots lie in a short story. Here's the general premise: Elvis didn't die. He switched identities with an impersonator of his called Sebastian Haff. So while Sebastian Haff went about being the King, the King himself toured as Sebastian Haff impersonating the King. The King is now killing time and flies in a seedy decrepit resting home. The King is played by Bruce Campbell, who delivers a socks-blowing performance. Our other player is JFK. JFK survived the assassination attempt. They then did a medical switcheroo on him and turned him into a black guy. He is also a patient at the same nursing home. Ossie Davis Jr. affords the part the appropriate blend of seriousness and humour. The villain of the piece is an ancient mummy who is feeding off the residents of the nursing home and only our heroes seem to know and understand enough to deal with the situation. This rollicking enterprise is well serviced by Brian Tyler's surfy soundtrack. There are lots of tiny details to relish: references to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Hustler magazine; a nice sequence that mixes Elvis in his car and Elvis in the creaky hospital bed; Egyptian graffiti on the wall of a cubicle in the toilet; the addendum to the standard copyright protection notice at the end promising infringers the "wrath of Bubba Ho-Tep"; a tip-of-the-hat to the promises at the end of the Saltzman/Broccoli Bond films that informs us Elvis returns in BUBBA NOSFERATU "Curse of the She-Vampires" starring Sebastian Haff [april 22, 2005: this one just got announced!]; and the note at the very end those of you who are watching, be kind rewind. that's right; guess with a DVD you don't have to do that anymore. The special features are cute too. All in all, a sumptuous off-beat offering. Director Don Coscarelli was also the father of the Phantasm series. I've only seen the first part, and it's sufficiently weirdly interesting to merit a viewing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Two groups? What, the "will be eaten" and the "won't be eaten"? [november 18, 2005]

Haven't seen the first edition, but this second one packs some wallop. Lots of dark earthy tones, and the "creature" itself benefits from never being completely visible long enough to send you snickering. The first film packed enough nails in its script to prevent a sequel. Chiefly, it was the rule that this creature got to feed for 23 days every 23rd Spring. Producer Francis Ford Coppola found an simple way out: set the sequel during the same 23 days as the first movie (specifically, on the 23rd day, thus preventing further sequels as well). The way this one got made was thanks to a technicality that allows this one to co-exist without making leaps of faith that pepper all the other sequel-laden franchises (razor fingers, hockey masks, William Shatner masks). I liked the use of the dissolve that took you from a shot of the strange knife(?) left by "it" in the wall to a long shot of the bus with people lying on the top. I also liked the movie nod in the scene when Kimball falls back stunned by a sudden flight of birds (one of his teammates screams out "Tippi Hedren man!").

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

titular hints about a twisted denouement to another rip-off [aka Bajpai notches more Rana points] [aka Inteqam]

One of the things that underscores the sad state of the Bombay film industry is the career development of two eminently talented still-underused performers, Ashutosh Rana and Manoj Bajpai. Rana made a splash as Gokul the rapist in the Tanuja Chandra-directed Mahesh Bhatt-scripted (read "adapted/filched") Dushman. Bajpai made his mark as Bhiku Mhatre in RGV's excellent yet slightly flawed Satya, and in a sheer Welles-ian turn of events, ended up getting slotted for life. In an ideal world that afforded encouragement to talent and potential, both Rana and Bajpai would have received more opportunities to prove their worth. In the not-so-ideal world (aka our world), Rana gets slotted in minor roles in flicks both from the Bhatt camp (Gunaah) and beyond (Danger, Chot, Guru Mahaguru). Bajpai shows up in roles of varying merit (Kaun, Road, Pinjar, Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar!), and roles which make you wonder how *anyone* could keep their brains and marbles straight (Jaago, Fiza). And that the two delivered the best performances in a toilet clogger like LOC: Kargil should only cement the argument.

Which brings us to Inteqam, a movie that Bajpai clearly did for the moolah. This film achieves a lot during the course of its running time. It almost confirms beyond a doubt that Pankaj Parashar has lost it. It makes you wonder how people could get away with a soggy rip-off like this that makes the original (Basic Instinct) look like Citizen Kane. In fact, this film adds a counter-twist beating the original's predictable untwisted twist to the finish line in the race of confusion and bewilderment.

Onward ho. Truly relishing every moment in this film fuelled by the intelligence of a drying heap of elephant dung, Manoj Bajpai plays renegade cop (ACP) uday vire.ndranaath Thaakur (for syllabic similarity see also vijay diinaanaath chauhaan [yes, yes, puuraa naam]). The film opens with this potentially interesting shot of UVT sitting on a white bench with the wind blowing paper cups all around. After a badly lensed and edited[sic] fight sequence (fulfilling the requirement of introducing our hero through a display of his maaraa-maarii skills), we segue into the opening credits that abuse bad CGI, derive heavily (without credit) from the opening sequences of the Broccoli/Saltzman 007 flicks, while employing an electronically mixed marsh of alaaps and saragams. The other person who enjoys a notable introduction is Ishaa Koppikar (who honestly should have taken a hint from the success of her item number in Company and stuck to that niche). The first thing you see is her derriere sashaying away in abandon for the voyeuristic camera as she pushes her trolley at the airport. She is ava.ntikaa suuryava.nshii (see also: Catherine Trammell), a best-selling writer of thrillers. The problem is that real-life murders seem to resonate with the descriptions in her book (yeah, yeah, if you've seen Basic Instinct this is all massive déjà vu for you. Check out, if you will, the variety in influences betrayed by the pathetic cogging of both the shower scene and Herrmann's score from Psycho for one murder). This makes her a suspect in the investigation conducted by the hot-headed short-tempered brooding UVT (who, incidentally, has had 24 killings to his credit, but then he's a cop, so no one's perturbed).

Her latest hotcake is The Perfect Game (selling for MSRP Rs. 250 only). This is where we have one of the most subtly intriguing sequences in the film. The book's clearly in English. Bajpai reads the Hindi translation, yet, later on in the film, as she is working on her next book, she records her narrative in Hindi. Later on in the film, when UVT examines her laptop, he finds drafts in English. Such linguistic confusion!

The other principals in this flick are mahak (Nethra Raghuraman), the criminal psychologist with the hots for UVT (see also: Jeanne Tripplehorn's character in Basic Instinct). In lieu of the rather loud and clothes-unfriendly sequence of animal pleasure involving the cop and his shrink, we get a seduction song with Nethra doing all the shaking and jiggling while Bajpai sits in cool bare-chested muscular glory. Then there's Sharath Saxena hamming in bliss as Sub-Insector Pandey (kaatil ne battiis baar ##enjoy## kar kar ke maaraa hai ... ye mujhe ##passion## waalaa ##crime## lagataa hai ... is me.n bahut vaasanaa bharii hai ##sir##). There's also Sushmita "Kitty" Mukherjee porking around as Mrs. Lobo.

On the songs front you have aa_ii holii, which boasts (somewhere therein) the subtitle the lava would anyway have set your scarf on fire. And there's the gem that goes ab waqt kii aahaT bhii mujhe kadamo.n se Daraatii hai / sapano.n kaa sunaharaa aa.ngan hai par dhuup jalaatii hai. And, of course, the salacious video in the outdoors for ye ishq. And IK's number at Mikanos.

On the dialogues front, we have lots of carbuncles given the salacious nature of the plot. So of course we get climax in Hindi (aana.nd kii charam siimaa). And, regrettably, a lot of the first-in-Hindi-then-in-English fragments (a lot of which get uttered by Bajpai): suman kaa mukhabiir yaanii ##informer##, shay aur maat hotii hai ... ##check and mate##, paagal kii tarah ... ## like an insane killer ##. Then there's a nice exchange near the end of the film:

mahak: tumane mere saath dhokaa kiyaa

uday: tumane mujhe dhoke ke sivaa aur kuchh nahii.n diyaa

Perfectly echoes the sentiments of the audience, really. This rip-off exploiting locations in Bombay and Sri Lanka crops a fat stink, unsatisfying as both a mainstream flick and as B-grade guano.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

whom do you think God really favors in the web? The spider, or the fly?

blade: [November 15, 2004]:
I haven't seen the first part in the Blade series (part III -- called Trinity -- is about to hit theatres), but part II is sufficiently cross-genre and coolly exciting, with lots of action, gore, a raspy grungy soundtrack, cool lines (Blade: you're human Kounen: barely, I'm a lawyer), a rare use of the phrase "s**tting bricks", and the presence of Ron Perlman (understandable since Guillermo del Toro made this!). Lots of rich reds and browns and some industrial blue on the palette. And wait for the end credits to know that no real reapers were hurt during the making of this film.

the naked runner [November 15, 2004]:
The Naked Runner immediately echoes that other movie about killing vectors guided by forces outside their control, The Manchurian Candidate. And both feature Frank Sinatra, albeit in different roles (there he was trying hard to avert the tragedy; here he is the sharp shooter who must turn assassin in return for his son's life). The film isn't as tightly or inventively made as Frankenheimer's trippy opus, but it manages to hold its own as a decent low-burn entry until the climax, which feels hurried and slap-dash. Noted the initial stagey elements in developing the situation: the interrogation by Hartmann features (a) a mix of XCUs and low-angle XCUs and a shot of "Karen" with the camera angle so that she appears slightly farther away and in the position of a guilty person (b) Laker's face descends as he throws up (when he gets a reprieve on his execution in the woods); cut to a room, Laker's face bobs back up, after a wash (c) the occasional tilted low-angle shot (d) and some almost-depth-of-field shots ... except that the camera retains the regular focus. And the musical score had a nice theme during the scene when Laker receives the telegram about his son. All in all, a decent thriller acted out with sincerity that is best served as an opening act to Frankenheimer's masterpiece of paranoia.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Peter Collinson's Fright, a little-known entry in the virginal-babysitter-meets-nutcase-returning-home/Brit-horror genre, predates John Carpenter's similarly themed yet more widely known Halloween. The staples of horror clichés abound, but given that this film was made in 1971, I am inclined to favour its use of these devices. The film doesn't notch much on the fear scale (although it notches points for some effective Hitchcock-ian sound-matching jump edits -- the cut from Susan George's scream to the sound of the engine as a car pulls out). I t does however feature a buxom babysitter, some nice use of tight frames and edits, a scene where Susan George is watching Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies, a theme song called Ladybird sung by Nanette featuring some "interesting" lyrics, an overwrought Honor Blackman, an effective Ian Bannen and a decent (albeit mono) sound mix. And a classic piece of corn: "How do you spell that word...psychotic?" ..."You might have to spell it M-U-R-D-E-R if you don't get someone over there quickly!". Suffice to say that I relished the irony of watching something like this on Children's Day.

Sneakers has the consistency of understated goings-on characteristic of Redford movies like All the President's Men. That film played like a documentary, while this one is clearly meant to be a mainstream entertainer. The cast roster gets the film its first big plus (Redford, Poitier, Kingsley). Another thumbs-up comes from the B&W 1.33:1 flashback sequence during the opening credits. And watch the opening credits very carefully (hint: anagrams, decoding). Liked the motific score. And the elements of and references to hacking/phreaking so carefully incorporated into the film, including some closer-to-genuine hi-falutin concepts from cryptography (courtesy: Leonard Adelman, the A in RSA). And the quote from The Conversation (the warehouse party). And there's a nice little special appearance at the end (hint: keep your ears tuned). And there's one of the very rare instances of a non-555 telephone number (415-273-9164). And someone's watching Touch of Evil too. Decent entertainment, loaded with quotes. What more can you ask for.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

c'est incredible

Just when you thought Pixar was done pulling rabbits of innovation out of their hat with Finding Nemo, they come up with another humbling and entertaining enterprise, The Incredibles. These guys don't seem to stop always getting it right. This time around they tackle a delicious high-concept premise: superheroes forced into exile and anonymity (echoes of the HUAC?) and dealing with normal life. As it unfurls, the jaw-dropping attention to detail I have come to expect from Pixar gets even more amazing. Check out the reflections in the glass on a framed newspaper item in Bob's study; the water particle detail as things surface from underwater; the foliage of Syndrome's island lair, and the fuzzy focus of the kid on the bike in the foreground as he listens to Bob (sharp focus) in the background. The film's content is more down the James Bond/spy TV shows alley than a regular superhero flick. And the production design for Syndrome's hideout echoes this. As does the score -- which is reminiscent of Henry Mancini and John Barry's work for the Bond films. There are lots of in-jokes, and some cool filmic moments: the opening outtake-style interviews in 1.33:1, the grainy black-and-white footage for when Mr Incredible is sued by a guy who didn't want to be saved. And the razor-sharp editing for the Return-of-the-Jedi-esque chase sequences through the forest on the island gives you the right mix of thrills and laughs. Other goodies include the theme over the closing credits in 5/4, a pre-feature short called Boundin', and the preview for the last Pixar/Disney collaboration Cars. If you watch closely, there's another example of Pixar's attention to detail: as the cars turn on the course, watch the background ripple in the wake of the exhaust. Previews can often do injustice to the final product, and this one would be a good example. It wasn't as complete a turn-off as the others (The Polar Express, Christmas with the Kranks) where you've already seen the gist of the film in the preview itself. I'm definitely going to catch Cars. Only because it's a Pixar movie.

Oh yeah, btw, if it's worth anything, when the film wound up in the cinema hall, there was applause in the audience.

how the earth came to be banana-shaped/how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes

Finally, I manage to catch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This film merits multiple viewings. And make sure you're wide awake and alert. Anyone familiar with the riot of the TV episodes will not be taken aback by the deluge of layered humour. Abrasive, entertaining, ostentatious, unexpected, and always Python. Now, go and boil your bottoms, you sons of silly persons!

Friday, November 12, 2004

short notes

Despite his vocal prowess, Adnan Sami exhibits a lot of the sticky bit syndrome in his melodies and arrangements (e.g. chain mujhe ab and kabhii aisaa lage). Tera Chehra and Kasam sport so much déjà vu! I must admit I don't mind it much -- I like the 7 and 14-beat cycles too, and I like the chords, and the melodic twists (some of which remind me of the kind of rabbits the late RDB would pull out of his musical hat). But I always wonder if there's more promise that lies hidden behind this recapitulation.

In addition to boasting a laughathon as a preview [more about that], Aitraaz also boasts songs with outrageous lyrics. The great voice of Sunidhi Chauhan sparkles, but is wasted and condemned to being stereotyped. For more entertainment, check out the interview snippets on, especially the Priyanka Chopra interview where she refers to Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor as veterans.

While on click to the page dedicated the the newest Darshan-fest Bewafa. The item of interest is Manoj Bajpai's interview. Catch a sample of nice Hindi. Behind the digs at the clichés and unsubtle aspects of his role, I could sense an element of defeat -- the need for art to succumb to the needs of dumbed-down commerce. Must this always be? Isn't there a middle ground where talent and commerce could co-exist without having to make concessions to each other?

And how about a dishload of uninspired movie titles? WTF does Kal Na Kal Yeh To Hona Hi Tha mean? And the runner-up is Jo Andar Fit Woh Bahar Bhi Hit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

finding Ramu: bad URL service

Since I like RGV and don't think much of Rediff, I thought I'd just present the correct link to Ramu Unplugged [Talking to Ram Gopal Varma]. These guys copied over the URL to a slide show dedicated to Aitraaz [more about that elsewhere hereabouts] that boasts a salacious image of Priyanka Chopra's back with a note that Priyanka Chopra is nervous and very insecure about her next film!. Strange are the ways of the world ...

How did I figure the URL out? Deductive guesswork.

the largest number in film songs?

Not that I haven't pondered this before, but I was thinking about this again, and when I noticed JR's post mentioning the song in question, I interpreted it as a calling. Here's the analysis:

the key lyric is B to the A to the B to the A. In pseudocode, that would be pow(11, pow(10, pow(11, 10))). Now if only someone could find a machine that's strong enough and a Math package that's powerful enough to compute this value ...

Monday, November 08, 2004

blast from ze past

Was trolling the Internet today and stumbled on an old post of mine on Prevue Magazine's forum for High Concept plotlines. 'Twas the summer of 2001, when I decided to sit in two film courses offered at the LCC by Paul Young, a great charismatic enthusiastic teacher whose vim was responsible for the extended lifecycle of the CAN film group at Georgia Tech (Paul has since moved on to hopefully better pastures). Anyways, one of the classes was dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock and the other was an introduction to film studies. The session du jour was film genres, and examples of films that transcended and straddled genres. This plot was my contribution to a group discussion that ensued. Juvenile post-modernism, if you will, but it still reeks of potential;)

He's the Sheriff

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a Vietnam vet who wanders into a frontier town. His accent and build immediately make him a target for scorn and the butt of numerous jokes. A buddy bond develops between him and the town drunk. He manages to get the town drunk sober and in return learns the ways of the west from him. Numerous trip-laden montage sequences serve to communicate his traumatic past in the jungles and also show us how heroic he was even then, risking his life to feed a dying soldier his last peanut butter sandwich. Back to the present, Arnie finally wins over the town, when he overthrows the town sheriff in a classic showdown. Supported by Rob Scheider as the town drunk, Jim Carrey as the mute deputy and Julianne Moore as the town sheriff. Cameos by Clint Eastwood and Robert Downey Jr. Written by: Joe Eszterhas. Directed by: Alan Smithee.
epic emptiness, nippon-noir, and a couple of minor fantasy flicks

[Friday, November 05, 2005]The Last of the Mohicans is classic Hollywood epic material (the source novel seems almost tailor-made for such exploitation anyway). Although I regret the choice of Michael Mann (he's IMHO made for less mundane material). That aside, Daniel Day Lewis achieves a lot with his presence (not that I was particularly keen on seeing much of anything really) and the background score has also gained mainstream notoriety (how's that for phrased irony). Predictably riffy, lush and moving[sic]. Great movie for insomnia. At least for someone like me who doesn't care for epics.

[Sunday, November 07, 2005]

Stray Dog: This is the kind of gem one loves to discover without knowing what to expect, without any background reading. All I knew was that this was a Kurosawa film. What ensued was a very very unexpected study of integrity and guilt against the backdrop of apre guerre Japan. Plush with touches of Americana, this film tells the tale of a cop (Toshiro Mifune, proving that all praise showered upon him is justified) whose gun has been stolen (a pickpocket in a crowded bus) and begins to figure as a weapon in one street crime after another. The background score reminds me of the background in all those old black-and-white Guru Dutt films (the instruments, the arrangements) and even, oddly enough, Satyajit Ray's films. Kurosawa employs his characteristic transitional devices (the wipe, dissolves, lap dissolves) as well as some great orchestration (can't think of a better word) to elevate the proceedings to represent a fine achievement.

* when Mifune is waiting outside a bar(?) for the lady pickpocket from the train, there's a guy sitting in front of him (some nice composition here) playing (the original of the Mera Naam Joker) theme on his mouthorgan. And as the conversation begins, the camera tracks slowly over the player's head to Mifune and the pickpocket.

* the audience shares the mystery of Yusa's identity. When Mifune makes a deduction based on clothes splattered with mud in the rain, the camera tracks up Yusa (from the back) standing at a window, and then cuts to the front.

Invaders from Mars: Haven't heard of this one have you? Minor little alien invasion flick (with a dream angle). William Cameron Menzies (P. D. for Star Trek: TOS) does the honours for direction (and production design, of course). Everyone pronounces mutant as mute ants. The narrative premise informs us that the Martians (led by an inflated bald octopus head and tentacles nested in a glass sphere) are breeding a race of synthetic humans. Every time the sand opens to swallow someone, there's a chorus of sirens audible to everyone around. There's a nice perspective shot featuring little David running into the police station (the door in the background, the desk cop in the foreground, and David running in). The shot gets reused when David's mother arrives. It can't top the more narrative-strengthening similar framing (complete with depth of field) in Citizen Kane as Leland walks up to Kane completing his unfinished review.

Target Earth: A nice little story about the survivors of an alien attack turning against each other while they try and escape detection. Strangely, there's an army high-ranker who describes some time as '2400'. Producer Herman Cohen was also responsible for facilitating other classics like I was a Teenage Werewolf, Horrors of the Black Museum and produced Kid Monk Baroni (which marked the acting début of Leonard Nimoy).

Saturday, November 06, 2004

the feng shui of boredom

Vaastu Shastra, despite my best hopes, remains a tired exercise in the clichés of the horror genre: strange camera angles, ghosts, strange sounds, sudden cuts, dark moments, children who know more than anyone else, rain, and the miscellaneous inexplicable actions that were spoofed so wonderfully in the Scream corpus. J D Chakravarthy still doesn't manage to get a mooring on his filmic characters, and Sushmita Sen, regrettably, has precious little to do, with even less to redeem herself. Peeya Rai Choudhury (seen in Darna Mana Hai and Chupke Se) is easy on the eye, but joins the list of people with not much to do. Rasika Oak/Joshi (who was splendid as the harridan mother in Gayab) barely registers credibility. When I put down my notes on the preview, I had noted references to The Shining. The other echoes include Poltergeist, The Others, The Sixth Sense, A Nightmare on Elm Street and miscellaneous zombie flicks. With so many references, the film is in grave danger of being a pandora's box of low-level inspirations (see also: Fida). Amar Mohile's background score swings from the sublimely appropriate to laugh-inducing moments (like that repetitive cherubic giggle). I will concede that the film could have been a lot worse; its technical merits are mostly up to par except they fail to contribute to the essence of the story and the atmosphere of the narrative. Perhaps this film worked better in the theatre. But Bhoot worked well for me on the small screen. It makes me wonder. And pray that the magic of The Factory has not disintegrated into a sack of pixie dust.

Friday, November 05, 2004

my own phoenix? [in which yours truly gives it those ones ... somewhat]

Excavated from the archives of languishing drafts and remastered for the reading pleasure of no one in particular:

* what I thought about shaadi ka laddoo, gothika/vijeta/the road to el dorado, fida

* in which Julie meets all expectations: bad acting, terrible funny dialogue, a sense of no direction (or is that "no sense of direction"), and the promise of more grist where this came from ... [julie: ek banaphuul ... i mean wild orchid]

* a dual-layered look at two action flicks that deliver more in departments that they never set out to achieve anything in: the yawn-inducing copiously stylish waste called Deewar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home and Aan: Men at Work ... [ensemble mayhem]

* an account of a hindustani vocal concert in August ... that links to an aurally appalling experience in Tampa, FL

Thursday, November 04, 2004

atom heart mother ... finally?

After much niggling from JR, I *finally* enabled my Atom Site Feed. Does my low receptiveness to little technological fun-stuff represent a deterioration of state? Have I begun to tread to path to being jaded? Say it ain't so, ... joe?
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