Monday, February 27, 2006

filmfare 2006 is now a thing of the past

As of Saturday, February 25, 2006. The only live performance I'm looking forward to is Madhuri Dixit's. The critics awards went to the same entities that won the corresponding popular awards -- the last time this happened AFAIR was with Rajnigandha. And nasal nuisance Himesh Reshammiya wins for his squealing title song for Aashiq Banaya Aapne. It has truly been a "black" year for Bollywood. They're all probably so tickled at having achieved a new level of finesse and mastery while still destined to churn out one lacklustre mind-numbing flick after another.

Bemoaning the quality of the awards, the nominees and the winners amounts to expecting some diversity from a mainstream populist self-congratulatory event. To put it mildly, one can hurl curses and laments every year without any hope of the awards ever "improving."

More rants will have to wait till a viewing. Meanwhile, I offer a recent take on the Golden Jubilee ceremony last year.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

two biopics and something that grows on you {Ray, American Splendo(u)r and Creepshow}

{February 24, 2006} Besides the music, the greatest thing about Ray is a tremendous performance from Jamie Foxx. Except for a fantasy sequence where Ray has sight, Foxx spends his time on screen wearing eye prosthetics and dark glasses, and becomes Ray Charles. Made me think of Claude Rains, who, when he played the tragic eponymous protagonist of The Invisible Man, was never "seen" until the final moment. All things considered, Taylor Hackford gives us a 152-minute by-the-numbers Hollywood biopic badly in need of a temporal liposuction and laden with cinematic devices good (liked the old-style wipes and the yellow-schemed titles) and bad (the predictable components that despite their genesis in fact remain clichés). The cast features familiar faces like Harry Lennix (Commander Lock in the last two editions of the Matrix trilogy), Terrence Howard and Larenz Tate (both of whom I saw in Crash) and it was a pleasant surprise to see Curtis Armstrong (remember Herbert Quentin Viola from Moonlighting?). What stayed with me at the end of the movie were the songs, the recording sessions and each of the Ray Charles performances. That's when I thought of Bird and wished this film had been half as personal as that one.

{February 05, 2006} I had not heard of Harvey Pekar so the American Splendor DVD sitting on the library shelf didn't seem too interesting. When a mention of the film came up in an IM conversation with Sudarshan, I found the incentive I needed to grab the DVD and I must say that it has been a very rewarding pleasant surprise. The film mixes devices employed in comic book storytelling and in filmmaking in a very interesting way. Comic book panels come to life, comic book panel captions show up introducing frames in the film, thought bubbles (and animated ones at that) become an extension of the live-action space, and there's this delicious segment (where Paul Giamatti talks to the camera about the different Harvey Pekars listed in the phone book) that combines a set, comic book animation, and CG to create a confluence of worlds. As if this wasn't enough, the real Harvey Pekar does the voiceover, shows up on set (as do other people played by actors in the film) doing an interview with the camera. The film blends reality and fiction in a charming way, giving us the kind of insight into the artist's life that mainstream by-the-numbers filmmaking can only hope (in vain) to achieve. I was impressed with how they mixed footage from the actual David Letterman show with scenes featuring the actors, but I didn't know that the reason they did the lashing-out scene with actors was that Worldwide Pants (David Letterman's company) refused to lease out the actual footage. Giamatti is a joy to watch in this delectable mix of documentary, fiction and comic art. As Roger Ebert notes in his review this film is delightful in the way it finds its own way to tell its own story. Need to snag a copy of Ain't that Peculiar, the song that plays during the end credits.

{February 04, 2006} It was only a gift from coincidence that I had Creepshow in the same bundle as American Splendor. Romero/King's tribute to the spirit of the EC comics of the 50s offers another example of doing a comic book movie. Romero employs several devices including the familiar switching between comic book frames and live action footage, the doubling of the film frame as one or more comic book frames (a strange case of Rear Window?), page-turn wipes, and the change to a red/blue scheme in scene lighting every time an attack (by a creature or corpse) occurs [a device that sometimes gets a tad annoying]. There are lots of in-jokes and no one's trying to scare you. The sole purpose of the film is to pay respects to the EC tradition. So people's reactions often border on expressionism in keeping with the heightened illustrations in the comics. Don't look for subtle performances here (Stephen King's Jordy Verrill should be a good indicator). I loved two moments in the film. The first: During the Father's Day segment, there's a diegetic song with the words Don't Let Go that underscores the theme of the segment. The second: during the Jordy Verrill segment, there's a black and white movie/show playing on the telly. The dialogue seems to be about building a nation (presumably America). Jordy has risen from his seat to evaluate the situation outside. You hear the movie/show continue in the background as Jordy steps out to see that the green growth is spreading.
Clip: because we were doing what we wanted to do. can you understand that?
Jordy: No! No! (because he sees that the growth has extended its reach; however, the clip from the movie/show seems to double up as being representative of the intent of the strange green growth).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust

A trust has been set up in the memory of late Manjunath Shanmugam with several objectives, the most immediate of which is a legal battle for justice. Gaurav has more details. Take a few moments, read the post and, if you share the POV, contribute to it (spreading the word and making a donation would be two good ways to do so). If you need some background reading to jog your memory, an old post from Gaurav should help.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

terse brevity

[an attempt to succinctly express my reaction to some of the movies I've watched]

daman {december 17, 2005}: sleeping with the enema

no entry {november 06, 2005}: the title says it all; but apparently a lot of people didn't heed the warning; so the self-congratulatory flick took oaths in the name of Reliance, plugged a Danielle Steele book, and played south indian music at a north indian wedding; who noticed; who cared; these are the people who think Bipasha looks beautiful[sic] and that the Fardeen and Salman flavours of Khan can be intentionally funny

naina {november 19, 2005}: corny yarn about an ultra-effective cornea transplant that takes you from Hong Kong to Gujarat featuring Screamila Matondkar, a Sandeep Chowta and puuryaa dhaanashrii hangover, reflective identity conflict and fast tiny end credits[breadcrumb]

pratha {january 06, 2006}: Raaja Bundela's directorial début presents a familiar tale set in Bundelkhand with decent songs (especially a folk dance), some nice plot elements, a dedication to NSD founder Ibrahim Alkazi, but weak performances and nothing much for Irfran Khan to do; a pity really, since Bundela's heart is in the right place
zinda {february 17, 2006] [last post in thread]


Thursday, February 16, 2006

bluff's on ya

[february 11, 2006]

If you asked me to use only two words to describe a reason to watch bluffmaster!, I'd say "Nana Patekar." Aside from the impressive selection of Bombay spots, the only good thing to be said about Rohan Sippy's follow-up to his directorial début Kuch naa Kaho is that this flick's a tad better than that one. Which is like saying a withered banana's better than a dried dessicated one. Just like KNK, Rohan Sippy executes another patent-pending flourish of inspiration by snagging elements from foreign flicks (Matchstick Men and The Game being the more obvious ones, with some elements from Nine Queens [need another viewing to get more concrete blueprint information]). Admittedly, that single-mom angle in KNK only felt like it had come out of Jerry Maguire, but there was enough of the standard Bollywood melodrama to make you wring your hair out.

This time around, RS was all set to make the film with Sanjay Dutt and his KNK regulars chhoTaa B and Ms Rai. Shooting schedule openings forced RS's hand; all this resulted in chhoTaa B getting Dutt's spot with Riteish "mai.n bhii numerology" Deshmukh stepping into his shoes, and Priyanka Chopra replacing Rai (Miss World 2000 replaces Miss World 1994; makes sense). That's why you have those acknowledgements to Dutt and Rai in the opening credits. Dutt creates a record of sorts for acknowledgements and cameos: he was on the soundtrack of Home Delivery, he stepped in for a music video for the closing credits of Ek Ajnabee, and now this.

soundtrack: RS employs an approach that combines the regular new-songs-for-the-film approach (Vishal-Shekhar's Right Here Right Now) the compilation approach (Trickbaby) common in Western films (and seen in local examples like Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues 2: Rearranged Marriage) and the collection-of-remixes approach seen in movies like Double Cross: Ek Dhoka (whadda title that!). The result is a mixed bag: the remixed title song from Sabse Bada Rupaiya sung by the late Mehmood is a rollicking track with a delicious horn intro, the remixes are tiring otherwise; say naa say naa's constant Dhol (both in the words and the rhythm section) is irritating. Stuff like this probably works best isolated from the film, playing in some discotheque. The most marketed element of the soundtrack has to be chhoTaa B's attempt at Snoop Dogg-ery with Right Here Right Now. To use the word "singing" to describe what you hear is a sure indication of poor English IMNSHO. I can see him signing up for more of this brand of vocal drudgery (like the new Vishal-Shekhar number for a yet untitled film). The intrusive background score decides to quote a motif from Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve [thanks for the tip, Amogh].

hangover square: The film begins just like Dus did. The SBR remix features a female chorus going bluffmaster ever so often, thus qualifying it as a title song. So this, just as in Dus, is what plays as we are treated[sic] to another montage of babes and chhoTaa B doing the patent-pending pull-up-your-pants step. Clearly, his dancing and singing abilities are something that only his fans can appreciate.

The ooh-we're-so-cool attitude that pervades this music video never seems to let up through the film that unfolds after the opening credits. It takes real talent to take such interesting source material and make such a dismal boring piece of footage. The acting's substandard, everyone's trying so hard to be (funny/dramatic/cool/hip) and with all this you're (a) asleep or (b) sneaking peeks at your watch counting down the minutes or (c) getting set to tear this flick apart with an MST3K treatment.

And then the intermission happens. And you've seen the true promise of the film as the character of cha.ndrakaa.nt paarikh (Nana Patekar) is introduced. Post-interval, NP rules every scene he is in. He makes everyone else on the set who claimed to "act" look like an emaciated peon in a chinese disco. In addition to getting the best lines in the film, he also makes innocuous lines funny. Makes you wish he and Govinda figure in a well-written comedy some day.

NP's appearance also throws a floodlight on the film's various failings, not the least of which is the maudlin melodramatic baggage that has plagued (and seems destined to do so for years to come) Bollywood mainstream cinema. The combination of cool and weepy ain't workin'.

Must one even begin to lament the embarassment of exposition in the climax?

technique: You actually thought those fake fish-laden wipes were cool?

The movie thrives on its post-modern slant. There are references to the Big B (the remixed title song of Do Aur Do Paanch), obligatory references to Sholay (something that got added to that long list of requirements of a mainstream movie), Karz, Shaan. And if memory serves me right, that movie playing the cinema hall during the income tax raid-scam is RS's disastrous début Kuch Naa Kaho. RS seems to be so pleased as punch with the work of screenwriter Shridhar Raghavan (Khakee) that he even includes a reference to him in the film. And does he appear himself in that Dogg-erel/music video that peppers the end credits?

burning question for the subtitling department: We know you ain't quite qualified in the intricacies of either subtitling or language. You've always been adding cuss words to the subtitles when nothing of the kind is ever uttered on screen. And with this movie, you're flaunting another skill[sic] of yours: you change the English subtitles for English dialogue. Yech!

funniest subtitle: chhoTaa B telling son-of-CM that he's usakaa baap in the business of conning gets subtitled as I am the Bill Gates of this kind of technology (somehow, given MSFT's history of misdeeds, the subtitle seems to now have a strange [unintended] resonance)

plugs: Raj Travels [Bombay consulate visa line throngers will remember this name well]

the chyawanapraash lemma: Any movie that includes a joke about chyawanapraash is guaranteed to be a migraine-inducing bore [see also: Garam Masala]

the cast: chhoTaa B's only successful attempt at acting[sic] will still be in Yuva. Rating the "coolest" role ever is a task best left to his fans. Priyanka Chopra is listless, untalented, and dull. The good[sic] looks seem to have taken her further on up the road as far as a film career is concerned, so she ain't complainin'. Riteish Deshmukh's only qualification is that he's Vilasrao Deshmukh's son. And he's already received awards for his comic[sic] performances, so should he really care about improving his skills[sic]?

awards: Surely, the film deserves an award for Special Effects for treating us to beautiful vistas of Bombay that had us sitting in disbelief throughout the proceedings.

There's a scene where chhoTaa B gives son-of-CM a lesson in the different types of marks. In a nice piece of Bombay-awareness, analogies are made to different types of fish. The result, however, is anything but delectable and underscores the problem of the film as a whole in its refusal to rise to the level of its sources. If you're nursing any desire to watch this over-hyped cool flick, choose wisely and go fishing instead.

postscript: Forgot to note that one may also spend one's time making Brokeback Mountain jokes for a few chhoTaa-B/son-of-CM scenes without having to try too hard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

thiruda thiruda [a pavonine post about plagiarism nine months before nehru]

WARNING: This post gives you more insight into YT and might end up turning a lot of people off with its self-aggrandising hilt

Flashback #1: YT's interest in the English language and in words rarely used or forgotten had hit the point when YT could spout stretches of prolix laden with all the words YT had learnt over the last few weeks. A few electronic copies of such literary[sic] outpourings exist, but YT will not subject you dear reader to the pain of reading them. The point, after all that verbiage, is that YT came up with a succinct description of self and interests to put up in places that YT knew people would hardly ever visit. Like YT's home page at graduate school [an old copy thereof -- in slight shambles as far as links are concerned -- courtesy, the Wayback Machine]. While a lot of egotistic bombast made its way to public eye, the short wordy personal description got relegated to the meta tags: this included the phrase "otiose paranomasia" and the following fragment:

home page for george thomas, a member of the human race with variegated interests in myriad areas most bizarre. he chiefly indulges in trivial pursuits. he wishes to know everything you never wanted to know about nothing that ever mattered.

Aah nostalgia.

Flashback #2: YT fails to learn to restrain the urge to wax grandiloquent. The fragment becomes a part of YT's metadata (instead of home page the fragment begins with the blog) for this space when it gets set up on Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2002 [a sample of metadata stored elsewhere]. Yeah, I'm into year 5 now. Just Pancham Me.

Flashback #3: YT signs up on Orkut (a social networking creation affiliated with Google dedicated to serving bad doughnuts to members who attempt to log on) and, in a fit of inspired mosquito net tactics, posts a variation on the same riff, outdoing himself in almost every department associated with logorrhoea:

a member of the human race with variegated interests in myriad areas most bizarre; given to venomously frequent bouts of otiose paranomasia; likes to know everything you never wanted to know about nothing that ever mattered; enjoys movies that most people would not even touch with a 10-ft flagpole

Rude Present: YT stumbles onto a newly inaugurated blog belonging to a guy in Pune. And the opening fragment of the masthead reads as follows:

It doesn't take a PhD in algorithms to figure out that the edit distance between these two fragments is than an earthworm's ... um, never mind, an earthworm's self-sufficiency makes it a bad example ... but you get the idea. Time to go rose red in rage? Or time to feel flattered that a product of pompous genius[sic] finds acceptance (even though through such means)? It's probably wiser to just get over the valentine's day blues in A and turn in after reading a few more pages of Karen Elizabeth Gordon's Torn wings and faux pas : a flashbook of style, a beastly guide through the writer's labyrinth.

Must I wish a carminitive calamity on this guy or just wait for pollution to take care of him?

The mirror now lies smashed to pixie dust. This intense auto-reflective moment was brought to you by Aham Social Networks.

Friday, February 10, 2006

some movie notes from other parts of the blogosphere

While YT tries hard to find time and creative vitriol to dedicate to all the reeling experiences YT choses to subject himself to, YT would like to recommend some external notes that have raised many a chuckle from YT:

(fresh off the e-press) Baradwaj Rangan takes Anant Mahadevan's Hitchcock mass-filch Aksar apart {link fixed, thanks Zero and Paddy; blame it on my feed reader;)} with a touch of Hashmi. Looks like this pr0n star's on his way to garnering a cult of his own (No, I do not mean the fans who swoon at his fatuous utterances, his diseased whimpering dart board-friendly mug or his luck with the termite-resistant ladies).

(an old classic) a wonderful notice for the best Mithun film of 2005, Classic Dance of Love from Mithunist and prolific purveyor of surreal rib-tickling brevity (on occasion) Great Bong

Thursday, February 09, 2006

grammy #48: india gets one ... well, kinda

The only Indians who scored at the 48th Grammy Awards [complete list of nominees and winners] were Kalyanji-Anandji samples of whose music featured in the Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group winner Don't Phunk With My Heart by The Black Eyed Peas (most recognisably the funky prelude to ye meraa dil from Don).

Yay! The Incredits (from the wonderful OST for The Incredibles) won for Best Instrumental Arrangement. I can't speak for the quality of the victory, but since I love the soundtrack, I'm just happy it won.

What is Kelly Clarkson's 2004 release Breakaway doing in the 2005 list? Was the release too late to qualify? Even U2's big winner How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was released in November 2004. What gives?

Fans of the Filmfare Awards (and other such awards that aim to reward one and all) will love the level of detail in the award categories. Consider Field 7 (Rap): you have Best Rap Solo Performance, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Album.

Heck! They even have an award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical.

EC's Back Home won Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, but this was not a win for EC (who was nominated in Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for Revolution off the same album, but didn't win). EC already has 18 awards to show off, for those who value music based on an award count. His super group Cream figured in the list of winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award though.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

a plug for Mixed Doubles

Aditya tells me that Rajat Kapoor's latest directorial venture Mixed Doubles is playing at a theatre in his part of the USA. Dang! If all is well, a DVD will soon emerge for unlucky viewers like YT. Meanwhile, Rajat Kapoor's (often unfortunately IE-only) website is teeming with lots of information (including a Film Diary) about and plugs for the film. Pluses: the promise of improvised performances; Anurag Kashyap sharing dialogue credit. Someone go see it and tell me what it's like.

Saurabh Shukla pops up again (Shukla and Kapoor seem to have decided to appear in each other's films: Mudda, Raghu Romeo, Chehra).

Old notes on Private Detective and Raghu Romeo.

Still haven't been able to find a copy of White Noise to see what Koel Puri's capable of. Damned economics of distribution.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

news belch

The Oscar nominations are out. Yeah, whatever.Paheli, India's submission in the Foreign Film Category, didn't make it. Oh! You're surprised? A Rediff reader poll received unanimous notes indicating that no one was surprised. A rarity for Rediff polls. The Razzie nominations are out. Yay! Let us celebrate the desii presence here with The Dukes of Hazzard.
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