Monday, January 25, 2010

A note from the past

A few years ago I came across José Suárez Carreño’s The Final Hours at an antique bookstore. I had never heard anything about Carreño but after flipping through a few pages, I decided to give the book a try. The 1953 hardcover book turned out to be the first American edition of the book and it was in surprizingly good condition, considering that the book was more than 5 decades old.  I started reading the book but for whatever reason, I never finished it and put it aside.  However, a few days ago I re-discovered the book and started to read through it again.  This time around I made a surprizing discovery.  Turning through the pages, I came across the following handwritten note buried halfway through the book:

This is the most horribly sordid book I have ever read. It makes one feel indecent & unclean, nearly made me sick! Thought you might like to read it though. Most extraordinary - what a mind Carreño must have! And it won a prize!! Don’t return it - burn it!

Now, I have bought many antique and second hand books in my life but this is the first time I have come across a handwritten note tucked away in any of the books.  At most, I have books which have some comments written on a page but this handwritten note is something else entirely.  Ofcourse, this means I have to finish the book to see what triggered these comments. Interestingly, whoever borrowed the book clearly did not follow the instructions to burn it. The borrower probably sold the book to a second hand bookstore and from there it must have changed many hands before landing up in my city. But the question is when was the note written? On the inside cover, there is a scribbled mark “Victoria/57” followed by a stamp giving a shop name & address in Victoria, B.C.  So that means this book was sold via the Victoria bookstore but the note must have been a recent thing because otherwise someone would have removed the note. Or maybe the note has persisted through subsequent sales because either no one got past page 146 or people decided that the note is part and parcel of this book's life.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Abundant Limited Choices

Sometime in the future....

“What movie do you want to go see?”

“I don’t know. What’s playing?”

“Transformers VI 3D, Shrek 6 3D, Spider Man 5 3D”.

“That’s it?”

“Yup. That’s it. Every multiplex in the city is only playing these three movies”

“Hmm. What do the critics say about these films?”

“What do you mean by critics?”

“You know, those people who review a film and sometimes give a rating.  Their reviews are printed in the friday newspapers”

“Oh..You don’t remember, do you?”


“Well..I don’t know where to start. You see, there are no more newspapers and so there are no more film critics.”

“What!! When did this happen?”

“When was the last time you saw a movie or read a newspaper?”

“Oh, I guess it has been a long time now...”

“There have been no newspapers printed in this city for almost a year now and the same is true for all North American cities. Most film critics were laid off two years ago and there have been no film reviews of any film anywhere in North America, atleast not officially.”

“what does officially mean?”

“After the North American film critics were laid off, most of them quickly went off to Europe where they have had a thriving career because films are still appreciated in Europe. The few critics that remained started some underground web sites where they wrote critical analysis of films.”

“Why underground web sites?”

“The thing is most Hollywood studios did not want people to review or judge their films. A few years ago, Hollywood decided to rebrand their films as an entertainment experience and thus were not happy when people wrote negative comments about their films. Hollywood decided audiences should sit in their seats, put on their 3D goggles and just consume whatever they put on screen, be it talking animals or green alien creatures. In order to prevent any chatter about their films, they got the governments (both Canada and the US) to prevent any mention of their films on the internet. The newspapers were already in trouble, so it was easy to get the newspapers to remove the film critics.  And then, the biggest coup for Hollywood was to ban all non-Hollywood films from entering North American shores.  This was the real clincher.  Once Hollywood prevented films from outside North America (such as Europe, Asia, Latin America) to ever be shown in any Canadian or American cinema hall, it became easy to control things.  The independent/art house theaters quickly went out of business because they didn’t have any foreign films to show and they could not afford the expensive 3D Hollywood films and then only the multiplexes were left who took whatever film Hollywood provided without question.”

“I don’t remember any of this.”

“In a way, I should not be surprized. You got so busy in your life that you stopped watching any films and no matter how much I tried, you never had time. Eventually, I stopped talking to you about films as I had given up on you ever watching a film again.”

“I am sorry. I never thought this could happen.”

“It’s okay. Even if you had watched the foreign films, this was going to happen anyway.”

“So what now? What films do you watch?”

“I don’t watch too many Hollywood films. There are still a few talented directors working in the Hollywood system who make intelligent and artistic films and I try to catch their works but I have to be on my toes as their films are only shown for a few days before the multiplexes are cleared for the next Transformers or Avatar 3D film.”

“I did see that film, Avatar.”

“Yeah, the 4th film in the series is coming out next week.”

“I only remember seeing the first one. I didn’t know there were more than one”

“You did live under a rock then.  The second and third films were almost mandatory viewings.”

“How were they mandatory?”

“Every night on TV, they kept announcing that this is the MUST SEE movie of the century and every human being on the planet must see the film. The ads and announcements worked in a way as lot of people saw the movie.”

“Did you see the movies?”

“I saw the first and second one and that was too much for me.”

“So what other films do you see?”

“Oh I try to go to Europe or Asia 1-2 times a year and get my films from there. Europe and Asia still have film festivals so it is possible to catch some great films there. And then, sometimes if I am feeling brave, I smuggle some foreign films home.”


“Oh yeah. Officially, we are not allowed to bring any films into North America. And if one is caught with a foreign language film, they are then sent to a “cinema rehabilitation camp” for a week.”

“I thought you were going to say jail or something.”

“No, jail would be considered getting off easy. The  “cinema rehabilitation camp” ensures that a person’s brain will be purged of any non-Hollywood film images and that one would not want to watch any foreign films ever.”

“Do you know what goes on in a “cinema rehabilitation camp”?”

“I have only heard rumours. Apparently they chain you in a seat and pry your eyes open and force you to watch 8-10 hours of 3D Hollywood films in a day, and then repeat that for a total of 7 days.”

“Are you serious?”


Finally, a burst of laughter.

“No I am not serious. We live in a democracy after all and are free to make our choices.”

A sigh of relief.

“Good. So you been making all this up?”

“Well only the “cinema rehabilitation camp” part. We can bring in any foreign DVDs we want. But the rest is true, we can’t watch any non-Hollywood films in a North American theater and there are no newspapers or critics.”


“Cheer up. We can stay home and watch this great film from Malaysia that I bought last year.”

“Oh. Wow. That sounds great.”

“I am just glad you finally want to watch a film.”

“I can’t wait...”

“Good. And if you like that, then I have some films from Romania, France, India, Thailand that you have to see as well.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Official -- Awards = Popular

Kathryn Bigelow is robbed! The Hurt Locker was the best directed American film of 2009 not Avatar. But as expected, the best director award was given not on merit but on popular choice. The Hurt Locker is a much superior film in 2-D than the 3-D Avatar and if one took away the 3-D, then Avatar is nothing but an average summer Hollywood film. Yes, credit must be given where it is due. James Cameron certainly knows how to make popular films, movies that make a lot of money and appeal to the masses.

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, part 2

[Update, Apr 2] -- Films from all 32 countries taking part in the soccer world cup have been located. Entries from North Korea and Honduras were proving to be a challenge but films from both nations have been identified and viewed recently. So a proper movie world cup can now take place and this total of 32 certainly improves on the 2006 movie world cup edition when films from only 22 of the 32 countries were found.

England: Of Time and the City (2008, Terence Davies)
Mexico: In the Pit (2006, Juan Carlos Rulfo)
Japan: The Human Condition, part I (1959, Masaki Kobayashi)
Portugal: Colossal Youth (2006, Pedro Costa)
Paraguay: Paraguayan Hammock (2006, Paz Encina)
France: Sans soleil (1983, Chris Marker)
Spain: The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)
Italy: Il Divo (2008, Paolo Sorrentino)
USA: Ballast (2008, Lance Hammer)
Australia: Celia (1989, Ann Turner)
New Zealand: Black Sheep (2006, Jonathan King)
South Africa: U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005, Mark Dornford-May)
Denmark: Flame and Citron (2008, Ole Christian Madsen)
Germany: Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922, Fritz Lang)
Ivory Coast: Adanggaman (2000, Roger Gnoan M'Bala)
Nigeria: Without Shame (2005, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen)
Cameroon: A Trip to the Country (2000, Jean-Marie Téno)
Argentina: Liverpool (2008, Lisandro Alonso)
Ghana: The Perfect Picture (2009, Shirley Frimpong-Manso)
North Korea: A Day in the Life (2004, Pieter Fleury)
Algeria: Daughter of Keltoum (2001, Mehdi Charef)
Slovakia: Orbis Pictus (1997, Martin Sulík)
Holland: Amsterdam (2009, Ivo van Hove)
Switzerland: A Crude Awakening (2006, Basil Gelpke & Ryan McCormack)
Chile: Historias de fútbol (1997 Andrés Wood)
Slovenia: How I Killed a Saint (2004, Teona Strugar Mitevska)
Brazil: Almost Brothers (2004, Lúcia Murat)
Uruguay: Gigante (2009, Adrián Biniez)
Greece: The Lost Monument (2009, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, 27 min)
Honduras: El Porvenir (2008, Oscar Estrada)
Serbia: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009, Mladen Djordjevic)
South Korea: Like you Know it All (2009, Hong sang-soo)


How I Killed a Saint is technically a Macedonian film shot in Macedonia but it sneaks in because Slovenia is listed as a co-producer.

Due to unforseen circumstances the Danish entry of Allegro (2005, Christoffer Boe) is no longer readily available. The film Flame and Citron has to be drafted in as a substitute entry. June 1 is the deadline for the World Cup soccer teams to call on a substitute player in case of an injury, so I am using that same guideline to bring in a replacement film.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Violence hits Soccer

It is not surprising that Togo have withdrawn from the African Cup of Nations after yesterday's bus attack. The entire episode has been shocking. Yes, such bus attacks have taken place many times before in various countries but this one is different because the bus was packed with soccer player. Soccer has always been an outlet for people to escape the troubles of their daily life but this time around soccer is directly harmed.

The famous Liverpool manager had a quote: "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that."

Well yesterday's incident should change that perception.

Will the tournament still go on? How will this effect the security question regarding the World Cup in South Africa?