Wednesday, December 31, 2008

shut up and blam

At the risk of alarming people, I have to admit that my heart goes out to James Joseph Cialella Jr.

If you're like me, your blood curdles when you're sitting in the movie theatre and hear that annoying cellphone ring or that wretched form of human life sitting nearby jabbering away. If you're like me, you might occasionally politely let the source of this free disturbance know what pain he/she is inflicting on you. If you're like me and this is one of those desii theatres, you don't even mince words and even mix in simian growls and cynical asides. But even I would never do what I admire Mr. Cialella Jr. for doing. When a father and son nearby were talking away while Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was playing, Mr. Cialella Jr., having tried the verbal approach and even the rather subtle move of throwing popcorn at the offspring, pulled out a gun and shot the father in the arm. He then returned to watch the movie until the cops came to arrest him.

It's extreme. I would never be able to do this. And yet, I'm cheering away.

Monday, December 29, 2008

and i wonder

How many different words have been used by those that name all the strip malls that inundate the American geography? I've seen pointes, places, plazas, villages and squares. I'm sure there are more I don't remember and more I haven't seen.

We all remember Sssshhh... (aka S4H3), don't we? One wonders if his appropriation of Jigar Muradabadi's couplet sabhii a.ndaaz-e-husn pyaare / ham magar saadagii ke maare for the song sapane is the only example of the Bollywood lyrical machinery lifting from this poet.

How many people noticed that Anu Malik was lifting his own stuff when he did the title song for Main Hoon Na? Try dha.Dakataa hai dil from Baazi.

Was I the only one who thought of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's be-imaan mohabbat from Ek Aur Ek Gyarah (one of those rewarding songs that seems devoid of any of the SEL trademarks that seem to pepper most of their work these days) when A. R. Rahman's aziim-o-shaan from Jodhaa Akbar started playing?

Didn't anybody notice how Pritam smartly took the a.ntaraa of aage bhii jaane na tuu from Waqt, sped it up, added his trademark wall of synthesised bricks and tossed it out as the a.ntaraa for the Usha Uthup song All Night Long in Dhol?

Did you know that If you navigated to the 00:13:38 mark in your copy of Emmanuelle in Space, you can hear the beat loop that underscores maa.Ngataa hai kyaa in Rangeela?

Did you spot Jatin-Lalit reusing the melody of the a.ntaraa of aa.Nkho.n me.n kyaa in 1996's Khamoshi: The Musical two years later for the second interlude of jab kisii kii taraf dil in Pyar To Hona Hi Tha?

Don't you think it's just a coincidence that an earnest riff played by the string section the second interlude in Anu Malik's teraa cheharaa mujhe from Aapas Ki Baat finds a sibling in the opening of the a.ntaraas in Pritam's lamhaa lamhaa from Gangster?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

extracts from the reading list

I have to toss a sop to coincidence when the phrase tout court shows up in two books that I picked up at the public library on Christmas Eve. I'm sure the phrase is not uncommon, but I have to confess that I haven't seen (or noticed) it before. As a tribute to the coincidence, here are some extracts from each book.

The first is the third book in Donald Spoto's series on Alfred Hitchcock. Spoto's name and work is known to any serious Hitchcock fan; A well-turned copy of The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, the second volume in the series, lies in my bookshelf (gathering some dust, I must regretfully add). Employing a pun, Spoto calls the new book Spellbound by Beauty and it covers, as is evident from the title, the Master's obsession with his leading ladies (and especially blondes). Spoto has been accused of starting to paint a rather uncomplimentary picture of Hitchcock as a person, starting with his second book. This third book, as the preface indicates, seems to promise more material that is bound to offend those that hold Hitchcock in high regard, as a creative genius without blemish. But, as Spoto also points out, genius has never been free of a life peppered with hurdles, sorrow, hardship and personality flaws:

Writing or speaking anything other than the highest praise or failing to promote the most affectionate encomia for so august an icon as Alfred Hitchcock has become, in the eyes of many, equivalent to cultural sacrilege. But the craft of biography requires that the shadow side of subjects be set forth and comprehended - otherwise, their humanity is diminished, their pain minimised, and those they hurt are ignored. Any appreciation of Hitchcock's art and life must take into account the enormity of his psychological, physical and social suffering, as well as that which he (perhaps unintentionally) caused others. From his suffering came the obsessively recurring themes and the constant sense of dread with which he continues to astonish, entertain and enlighten.

The other bit comes from the wonderful introduction by Anthony Burgess to the compilation The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard:

Ballard considers that the kind of limitation that most contemporary fiction accepts is immoral, a shameful consequence of the rise of the bourgeois novel. Language exists less to record the actual than to liberate the imagination. To go forward, as Ballard does, is also to go back -- scientific apocalypse and pre-scientific myth meet in the same creative region, where the great bourgeois novelists of tradition would not feel at home.

The complete text of the introduction is available in the Google Books preview of the book.

The final extract (did I say two? I lied) comes from Emmanuel Carrère's book I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey in the Mind of Philip K. Dick. It's a succinct description of what happens when a cult figure acquires mainstream acceptance and recognition:

Given the uniform Vintage editions of his complete works and the many articles about Dick that have appeared in both academic and popular journals, his fans must feel a little like the early Christians did when their faith was officially adopted by the Roman Empire: triumphant, of course, but also slightly nostalgic for the days when they lived in the catacombs. The Happy Few cease to be happy when they are no longer few. Dick has become part of the mainstream.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

a farewell to YACCS

The precious few visitors that this ego-fondling portal of extremely biased rants and raves may have noticed the results of a forced rhytidectomy. As I attempt to restore elements from the old platter, you, dear visitor, may have noticed that the comments that you may have left/noticed/read/responded to in the past are gone. Kaput. Poof! The kind of thing Griffin was known for. Here's what happened.

It all started in 2002, when YT started blogging with Blogger. It was free, easy, reasonably popular, but lacked certain features that today's bloggers take for granted. One of these was support for comments on posts (yeah, duh!). Google's acquisition of Blogger didn't help matters too much. Comments arrived, along with some other features, in 2004. So what does a hapless blogger do till then? Try a third-party offering. Haloscan and YACCS were the leading offerings then. A mental coin was flipped and I chose the latter. It had its problems, but then so did Haloscan. Procastination and the lack of any easy way to migrate comments from YACCS meant that I never adopted the new commenting system in post-Google Blogger.

The first cog in the merry wheel came in 2006 with a big redesign featuring a new templating system, a more interactive editing experience and more reliability. The only hitch was that YACCS didn't support this new system yet. So I stayed with YACCS, but made a mental note that I'd have to try and find a way to migrate the comments from YACCS to the Blogger system -- either with some convenient piece of software out there or by churning out some code myself.

The final blow fell recently on August 19, 2008, with the announcement that the YACCS service would be discontinued starting December 23, 2008; here's the text of the announcement reproduced from the main YACCS page:

YACCS will discontinue service on Dec 23, 2008

YACCS will discontinue its service on December 23, 2008. After this date, you will no longer be able to access comments, either on your site or through the YACCS homepage. Please download/archive your comments before this date. Thanks to all the supporters, translators and bloggers who have supported YACCS over the past seven years.

This left me no choice but to move to Blogger's commenting system. I went all in and adopted the new templating system as well. As I still continue to restore pieces from the original portal, I know that I'll have to write some code using the GData Blogger API. The good thing about YACCS is that it allowed me to export my comments in CAIF. That's the Comment Archiving and Interchange Format, something that Marcus Campbell came up with.

Thus I bid adieu to Hossein Sharifi's creation that has served this blog well for what few comments it managed to invite.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

was Rock On! meant to Bollywood's first rock movie set in the future?!

There's a moment in Abhishek Kapoor's directorial d├ębut Rock On!, as the title song plays in the background, when the camera pans across a set of posters adorning the wall.
the mothership trips time

Starting from the obligatory Che Guevara to a handful of photographs of John Lennon scattered about to one of The Beatles, one of Guns N Roses, a Rolling Stones poster sporting John Pasche's famous lips logo on a jean pocket and then, finally, Shepard Fairey's cover for the 2007 Led Zeppelin compilation Mothership. Whoa! Hit pause please. A few bits of dialogue in the film tell us that 10 years have passed since the band performed last for the contest. That camera pan was part of the flashback. This means that the present (featuring our former band members going through life like it was an endless novocaine trip) takes place in 2017 at the very least. It's nice to see that the film didn't have a dystopian view of Indian rock. Rock on!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

trailer plug: DEV.D

This post was long overdue. For those who haven't seen it yet, may I point to the theatrical trailer of Anurag Kashyap's forthcoming film Dev.D, a contemporary take on the Sarat Chandra Chatterjee classic based on an idea by Abhay Deol. The trailer offers a quick trip (no pun intended) into a daunting, intriguing world of myriad colours and sounds (try combining a street dance party brass band and some angry rock along with a cool hook called emotional [pronounced: e-mo-san-al] atyaachaar) fuelled by addiction and the quest for love in its many twisted forms.

Elsewhere, there's a tame poster along with a more adventurous one (courtesy: PFC).

Amit Trivedi, who handled the excellent soundtrack of Aamir promises another exciting mixed bag for this film:

We have 15 songs for Dev D. All the songs will be played in the background. There are four lyricists.
It has world music, Rajashtani folk, head-banging rock, street band baaja, an Awadhi song, Punjabi song and 1980's[sic] Euro-pop song.

As that wasn't enough, try appearances by the dance trio The Twilight Players in the film.

update: [december 18, 2008]: The official website boasts more of the variegated palette along with NSFW elements (you thought they were joking about "Lustline," didn't you?). The Tamil dirty talk is especially recommended for chortles. It's bandwidth hungry though and takes its time to load, so make sure you have a tank of patience before you click through the phantasmagoria.

Monday, December 15, 2008

the lord is my business

[february 02, 2008]

The first 20 minutes or so of Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (after just the film's title as far as opening credits go) play out like a silent movie lovingly filmed to exploit the rich possibilities of widescreen until the silence is shattered with a Good Evening from Daniel Plainview right before the scene introducing us to him and his audience. Anderson eschews intensified continuity (a term due to David Bordwell), a technique rampant in Hollywood today featuring enthusiastically edited frames devoid of much information (Bollywood has probably taken this several miles further by presenting caravans of meaningless frames). Instead he sticks with patient long takes and a relaxed approach to a narrative embellished by a powerful score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The score, which employs real instruments, is effectively eerie, reminiscent of the haunting motifs of Bernard Herrmann and the work of György Ligeti. All this only emphasises a towering consuming performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the towering satanic Daniel Plainview embodying the American spirit while giving us a character unpleasant, unlikeable and compelling. I enjoyed watching the uneasy (unholy?) alliance between commerce (Plainview) and religion (the charismatic preacher Eli Sunday) as much as I did the measured steady pace of the film. The final act, however, has me in a pinch. I was impressed with its audacity, but I also felt cheated as the end credits rolled out like those in a silent movie. I just hope there was something I missed, something that a second viewing at some point will help me understand. There's no denying, however, the power of the film with all its warts and confounding elements.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

dibakar banerjee speaks and regales

PFC notches another big fat feather in its cap with a no-holds-barred conversation with Dibakar Banerjee, who scored with Khosla Ka Ghosla and whose bold second effort Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! managed to survive despite the unfortunate timing of Bombay's terror weekend. This is strictly NSFW (you get Delhi-style cussing, comparisons between precisely measured filmmaking and porn flicks among other things) but it's worth every minute. And there's a lot of praise for .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

whom were they apologising to?

[cross-posted on the Passion For Cinema blog]

I wasn't alone in wondering why jalate hai.n from Onir's Sorry Bhai owed something to ballo from Rabbi Shergill's Avengi Ja Nahin. It isn't surprising, really, when you notice that Gaurav Dayal, the music director for Onir's flick is credited as the music programmer and producer for ballo on Rabbi's album. Rabbi sued, but unfortunately the courts didn't heed the wisdom in the Krazzy/Sampath case. The Delhi High Court put a stay on the film forcing the release date to move past November 28, 2008, but eventually caved in and lifted the stay. The observations made justifying the court's belief that there wasn't enough water in Rabbi's claim to bathe the horse of plagiarism are worth a shipment of guano:

We are of the view that the main constituent of the song is the melody and some similarity in the rhythm of the accompanying acoustic guitar can't be sufficient to infer that the music director has plagiarized Shergill's song. In any case, even the lyrics are completely different. So, we are, prima facie, of the opinion that the movie song is not a reproduction

Perfect. The dimwits seemed to have chosen to ignore the similarity in the melody. Also, did anyone listen to the lyrics of both songs? Methinks there's more evidence of a filch there (if anyone cares). Here's more:

[T]he division bench judges also heard the song in the chamber to conclude that the only similarity between the two songs Jalte Hain from the movie and Ballo from Shergill's album was "in the use of guitar". This apart, HC said, "there is some difference in the use of accompanying sounds, comprising other instruments."

So much for being qualified. One hopes that, despite the Supreme Court's refusal to do anything useful in this matter for now, the second RS joins the first RS in finding justice.

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