Monday, March 26, 2007

Sir! My Liver!

quoth some random sailor on board the Redoubtable when he was swept off deck by a volley of shot from the Victory that severely impeded his alcohol tolerance (with multiple apologies to le docteure Canadienne).

To scribble about more immediate matters, after we watched our representatives follow our good neighbours on their way out, it was intended to review that incomparable parable of freedom, war, and bad choices of personal jewellery: CCC. However, the War Nerd did the job better than we ever would[1], so we instead abuse the royal pronoun prodigiously as we try to answer another hypothetical question: is it at all possible to review satisfactorily a movie we like? For various reasons related to bile and spleens and the requirement of venting the same periodically from within the safe confines of that spongy mass we call our body, we prefer to review the opposite, particularly when events conspire to put so many of them in our path.

So, consider Sur Mes lèvres, a crime thriller by Jacques Audiard that relates a touching story of thievery as pulled off by a deaf girl and a parolee from one of France's unpronounceable prisons. The film starts off with much camerawork emphasising speaking lips, hinting at what the title translates to: "read my lips", to us multiculturally challenged individuals. Carla is a partly-deaf secretary at a large civil engineering firm, who works hard at her job (and works on her own time drawing up contracts and projects for the greater good of the germ.. er, the firm.) Her job also involves her picking up emptied cups of coffee that weightier individuals leave at her desk, answering the phone, and otherwise doing what a nonentity does best: existing, babysitting a better-looking friend's baby as the friend enjoys the experience of being a "mindless piece of meat" (or thereof, quoting from subtitles is sadly difficult.) The audio follows her hearing aid, with some nicely framed scenes where the volume changes as she adjusts the volume in both load, and crucially, quiet environments.

Our lady of the coffee leads a boring existence, screaming "arbeit macht frei" every now and then, until in a fit of inspiration, she decides to use the local employment exchange to find herself a secretarial assistant with nice hands. In steps the hero, better known from the sequel of a movie we like (of course, he includes a Shocker K'Boo flop in his filmography, to compensate), who is, as mentioned, out of jail. For reasons best known to herself, Carla passes him off as a former employee of an upstanding firm, and trains him up, applying small pokes and jibes that were probably aimed at her during her existence. Much obvious misunderstandings between them later, our man of the jail gets an offer he can't refuse, and finds an opportunity to make a killing. Much plot development later, the prince kisses the frog. Er. Maybe not, but the you get the idea. Notwithstanding the fact that I praise it (which, in some circles, is considered deadly for a movie), it still remains a movie you can watch once. Which is more than can be said for some other blogkill.

[1] No link. Find this one yourself, it's worth it!

Oh, and before I forget: this is a very good movie about the so-called "great war"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Alvida Inzy Bhai

Inzamam Ul Haq has decided to retire from One Day International Cricket. I first watched Inzamam play in the 1992 World Cup as a 10 year old teenager still trying to lift a bat properly. What astonished both me and my brother then was the fact that he was never hurried into playing any stroke, seemed he almost could wait that extra nanosecond thinking "Hmmm now where do I dispatch this ?", and once the answer was found to that question hit it with such precision that the presence of fielders seemed almost incidental to the shot. It is of course another entirely hilarious story that he probably thought an extra minute for "Should I run ?" and was involved in some of the most comical run outs in cricket history.

Over the years whenever the Pakistan team would be batting I would wait for 2 great batsmen to strut their stuff, one the wristy and elegant Saeed Anwar and then wait till Inzy would walk out to bat. From the time he would mark his guard to the running between the wickets there was an element of a laid back attitude, a it-is-only-a-game outlook. This was probably why he could never be a good captain.

He shot into prominence with two excellent knocks in the 1992 World Cup, a 37 ball 60 against an as yet undefeated New Zealand, and then another excellent finishing knock in the final. But the innings that stand out in my memory are A. The match in Karachi of India's tour of Pakistan in 2004. Chasing 350 to win and losing 2 wickets for just 34 on the board, Inzy walked out to bat. And for the next 2 hours he went on to show the world as to why he must be in the top 5 of any list of world class batsmen. Nehra was pulled with a swivel of the hips both in front and behind square depending on the field. Balaji was cut with the gap between point, sweeper cover and third man being repeatedly found. But the greatest joy to watch was his repeated stepping out to Murali Kartik. Driven inside out over extra cover (one of the most difficult shots to execute), and when he strayed on the legs swept fine, square. He almost pulled it off but for Moin failing to do a Miandad and they fell short by 5 runs. (By the way rekommendation read Rahul Bhattacharyas "Pundits from Pakistan" this innings is described in much much better words in the book) B. Again old opponents India this time in India, Ahmedabad to be precise. Needing 316 to win Inzy walked in with Paksitan 183-3 and 20 overs remaining. He again proceeded to play an innings in such a calm and controlled manner that not for once did it look like Pakistan were going to lose. Not even when 1 run was required off the last over and the phlegmatic finisher waited till the last ball to hit a boundary off Sachin. C. Again the opponent is India and this time the Venue is Bangalore, India is up 1-0 in the test series. On the first morning it is 7 for 2 and Pakistan are already in trouble. Enter who else but Inzy and as he stroked and caressed and sometimes bludgeoned his way to 184, it was an education in batting of the "fury under control" kind. The match went onto the final day and a visibly charged up Inzy marshalled his bowling resources well and made sure that Pakistan levelled the series 1-1. Another test innings worth mentioning, when he played with No 11 Danish Kaneria against Bangladesh to deny them a test victory and secure a win for Pakistan.

I was talking to one of my school friends who also used to play cricket for the school, and he once told me that if there is a chase on and Inzy is at the crease, nothing can be more absorbing than watching him bat as he calculates and times his innings precisely. Choosing exactly at what time to accelerate, which bowler to attack and exactly which gap to pierce. In this he was comparable to Hussey and Bevan two other great finishers of limited overs cricket.

Probably the only reason he has never got his due, is due to his poor record against the Aussies. Just as every batsman of the 70's was bench marked with how well they played the WI pace quarter just will it be the test that every contemporary batsman needs to pass against the Aussies in the 90's.And he would always find new ways of getting himself out like obstructing the fielder.

His captaincy was rarely inspirational and usually very reactive. But his press conferences were always known for starting with "First of all Thanks to Allah". In a time when most captains mouth inanities like "We were about 20 runs short" it was always much more fun listening to Inzy say those words.

He was a gentle giant shrugging off Indian audiences comments of "Aloo Aloo" with a wan smile more often than not, well respected and rarely had anything other than a good word for anyone else.

And so in keeping with the tradition of the book we are reading "So Long Inzy and Thanks for all the Innings"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Raid: The dockside

Raid: the Dockside

Vikram Bhatt demonstrates why it is a bad idea to watch "Cries and Whispers" and "Basic Instinct" just before brainstorming for a new method to take money off a credulous audience. While not completely an expedition of suitably clad cockroach-killer wielding amazons out to recapture Diego Garcia, Red does come close, in all critically acclaimable aspects of the matter.

I imagine the conversation must have gone something as follows:

Dyerector: "The last decent movie we made was way back in 2002! Let's do something new, it is a great opportunity moving forward to capitalize on our culturally challenged audience."

Yes-Man 1: "Aye Aye, Cap'n!"

D: "You know..."

Yes-Man 2: "Yes Sir!"

D: "...Actually, you don't. I watched two whole movies yesterday!"

YM1: "I believe Congratulations are in order, sir. How were they?"

D: "Red! Red! I have a new idea for a movie, now."

YM's: "Congratulations, sir!"

D: "This will be a movie about murder. There will be a lot of redness around. In fact, we'll fade from and to red between scenes!"

YM1: "Wonderful Sir!"

And thus, was born Red. The movie starts off with Affitabh pawning his dog at the local, and promptly suffering from the debilitating effects of a hole in the heart (Note that this is not necessarily the same as the aftereffects of having an arrow through a cardioid shape that happens near the ides of February, but for the sake of argument is assumed to be so.) After a long and involved trip through hospital rooms and general cinematography reminiscent of this, we see Affy get a new heart, a bottle of "immunosuppressant" drugs, and promptly celebrate by getting drunk and trying to find out who was the previous possessor of his heart. Affy, by the way, owns a computer corporation called CompTran, when he's not pawning dogs or otherwise falling around in fits (and various other things).

The "immunosuppressant" touch is very nice, by the way. According to the movie, he has to take them for the rest of his life, to prevent the new fluid pump from being rejected by his body (true). His doctor also claims that these drugs reduce infection rate (true, for a certain restricted meaning of infection), and have other most
interesting effects (truth unknown) that form a key step of the plot. If nothing else, it makes one wonder: what poison takes about an hour to act, but once it starts, affects the "immune system" rapidly, but still leaves the victim capable of a spirited rendition of Hamlet's soliloquy?

Speaking of Ham: guess who was responsible for the music for this movie? We need say no more, save the fact that it is an appropriate backdrop to the red-(un)clad heroines that infest this movie. Horrifying visuals apart, the two heroines don't do much more than remind us that we could have been wasting time in more pleasant ways.

To get back to the (excuse for a) storyline, the hero finds out who he stole his pump from. After a certain amount of stalking this person's wife, wherein our hero nearly undergoes a frontal lobotomy by metal rod (which would have improved the movie no end), meets up with the love of his life, and generally scatters a few woses awound. Much unpleasantness later, the movie grinds towards its conclusion, leaving the audience free to meditate on the transience of material (the hero's Breitling watch) and non-material (our temper) goods.

As an interesting aside, we note that the so called tabloid newspaper featured as the hero stalks makes the grave mistake of referring to the "greiving[sic] widow". Maybe she was a graven window, an example of "Arbeit macht grei", but it grieves us to see such examples of shoddy copyediting lifted into prominence by a movie that otherwise maintains uniformly standards otherwise: low necklines, low comedy, low lows, and we low not what else.

To paraphrase the last (or thereabouts) line of the movie: we'd die to have not watched this movie, we may want to kill the idiot who dragged us to this movie, but we're damned fools to have watched it in the first place.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fundamentally un-sound

About the only thing that could be worse than an Indian cinema is the Indian cinema audience. After two months of this year passed without my voluntary contribution to encourage the great Unified People's Cooperative Industry for the Production of Mass-Viewable Culturally Uplifting Movies, a decision was taken: to watch the great man of Indian cinema direct a greater man in a disastrous exploration of alternative immorality: the copied localisation of two movies from the distant barbarian lands of the west.

All started auspiciously, given the pronounced crowds that make one wonder how this particular multiplex actually makes a profit. The fond hope of watching a movie undisturbed by the grunting masses was rapidly dispelled by the swine that treat a theatre as their theater to demonstrate to a largely uncaring audience that they are now fully empowered citizens, entitled to irritate everyone by talking about most uninteresting matters were present in full force (Hey, it only takes one to contaminate the lot, and when you have a 19 people of an audience of 20 indulging in intricate manipulations of the stock market, the resulting euphony as funny as a phony cry for help.)

Anyway, on to the Bheejoy[1]-starrer of the modern era: what can you particularly say about a movie that starts with "American Beauty", carefully hacks out the decent parts, and replaces them with, shall we say, material of dubious origin? Consider, for example, the memorable scenes of Lester Burnham on his way to dreamland: replace them with Bheejoy having an extremely irritating fit of laughing that pisses off his wife (and his audience.) And the roses! To add insult to injury, when you copy from a movie starring this person, we may be wrong to expect a swimming pool, but to replace that with a hosepipe is decidedly poor taste added to rank advertising.

The "18 year old" young Angela Hayes is played by Ramboda's find of the year, the young lady whose picture we put on this post to irritate the usual bunch of characters who read this tripe at work. (as an aside, what the hell is a lambada? We know the lambda, and worship it between hacks, but this is a new one.)

Consider, now, a tooth-numbingly stupid brat pretty young thing with exactly two thoughts rattling around in a vast, cavernous blackness otherwise known as "the skull". The thoughts are just the sort of rules Wolfram cooks up for his cellular automata, somewhere along the lines of "water=good", and "old man=want", but that is incidental - replace them with any other rules of your choice, and the resultant emergent behaviour will get you a movie.

A maelstorm of secondhand emotion camouflaged by breathtaking imagery from the Communeast southwest demonstrates how complete Amitabh's transformation from angry young Vijay to sad old Bheejoy is. Ah, and who can forget the other kind of visuals? (Watch carefully, though: uncontrolled exposure has been known to permanently scar the retina.) Add to that the repetitive drone of "take 't light", and it makes you wonder who, exactly, the exhortation to stay "light" was intended for. Certainly not the audience, who were reminded unfavourably of another pet hate. It's all there: the crying, the irrelevant remarks about family, the characters made out of moldy cardboard, and finally, the screenplay (which, by the way, is the real destroyer of this movie - it could have been so much better.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Shaven Samurai: a modern parable

A long time ago and a himalaya or two away, there lived a girl called Snow White. Changing social circumstances and norms resulted in her having to leave home and live in a glass house, accompanied (atleast, in the Tadsilwenyan mythos) by seven appropriately named dwarves: Doc, Dopey, Grumpy,... oops. Wong er, that is, Wrong story.

One wonders just what particular version of the story of Snow White the great Master K was thinking about when he made his gritty, realistic masterpiece about the shaven ones. An off-beat one, one hopes.

The 'Seven Samurai' opens with a millety spy listening in on the deeply deliberative discussions of the executive council of some unnamed ship of the high seas of international finance. The leaders of this particular leviathan wish to determine the optimal moment to effect a transfer of ownership to maximise their holdsharers profit. Unfortunately for them, the spy has a conflicting material interest, which is where this story begins.

Spy runs in his hoppy gait to his headquarters of nonmilitary unintelligence, where the spiritual ancestor of General Schiesskopf promptly dispatches an early scouting patrol armed with jugs of rice and pots of sake to gather up renegades from the holy band of people who wield two swords[1]. Collecting such people naturally affords us an insight into the collected people's character, where we meet the shaven one (who is capable of wreaking havoc by creating a cannonball from two hemispheres of rice), watch him becomes the General, and lead a motley crew of sword-wielding characters in their meaningful fight to do justice.

Much fighting later, we see that Toshiro "Kikuchiyo" Mifune, the only samurai of the lot whom we cheered for, is dead from an bullet, and the last of the financiers have joined him. Our remaining heroes from the best colleges[2] are left with no utility to their present employer, and thus end up with miles to go before they, well, need to write another statement of purpose[3].

Seriously speaking, this is a good movie about the beautiful futility of war. After all, maneuvers on the high seas of international finance need a certain time before they can settle down into a steady state.

[1] Not what you think, sadly. The shorter sword has "Made in IIT" engraved on the blade, (something like Hattori Hanzo would do) while the longer one has "Forged in IIM"[4] painted over the engraving.

[2] They might have been from the Musashi school of ring and sword. That is the same thing, though.

[3] I hope this was just a historical thing. The usual kinematic cinematic disclaimer of "all characters and events [...] fictional [...]" applies here.

[4] It has since been implied to us that this is ambiguous. To be absolutely clear, we mean forged(1) from here, and not forged(2).