Sunday, May 16, 2004

Movie Talk -- Ying Xiong (Hero)

Yimou Zhang's Hero is a modern day classic!

The Rashomon style story is complimented with philosophical words, colorful backgrounds (oozing with symbolism), poetic swordplay and brilliant expressive acting. The movie will surely draw comparisons with Crouching Tiger, but Hero stands apart because of its poetic style. There are layers to the story which are peeled off in a style similar to Rashomon.

Jet Li, Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger), Maggie Cheung (her perfect expressions are on display in every scene), Donnie Yen and Daoming Chen are the main players in the movie. Chen plays the King of Qin whose life is constantly under the threat via assassins. Three of his deadliest assassins have been killed by the humble Nameless warrior (Jet Li). The intelligent king is intrigued on how the Nameless warrior defeat all 3 enemies while his army failed in the past. The stories of the 3 killings, which are unwrapped slowly, trigger varying transformations in both the king and Nameless.

Vibrant. Poetic. Beautiful.

Movie talk -- Meenaxi: A Tale of 3 Cities

It is interesting that the movie Meenaxi suffers from the same problem as the main character shown in the movie. The main character Nawab (played wonderfully by Raghuvir Yadav) is inspired in a flash of a second and sees an entire story unfold before his eyes but when he tries to pen the story down, he suffers and is unable to extract the beauty from his mind onto paper. What a common problem most writers have!! The stories written inside the human mind are often more interesting than the words that make it on paper.

In the same manner, the story might have been highly interesting for the writers of the movie (Owais Husain and M.F Hussain) yet they cannot translate that vision onto the silver screen. A huge failure of that vision is because of the inept performance of the two lead actors (Tabu & Kunal Kapoor). It's time to state the facts -- Tabu is only useful for roles where she has to sit in a corner crying and playing the helpless woman; she is the last person who can be seductive. This movie required a woman who was seductive, a woman who haunted the mind of the writer, a woman who drove the writer mad. If the writer imagined a character like Meenaxi, then one is forced to say that the writer has no imagination. Even a juvenile writer would imagine a more exotic femme fatale than the Nawab in this movie did.

Now if the Nawab was falling for a poetic image of a woman, then Tabu still fails on that front. She is not poetic, even her body movemovements are awkard, jerky and unpleasant. No man would ever imagine such a BORING fantasy. The less the said of Kunal Kapoor, the better. It is getting highly tiring to have all the male models turned actors sounding like John Abraham. Even if the same person is dubbing for these male models, there is no attempt for creativity in the voice. The playback singers are far more talented.

None the less, Meenaxi is not a complete waste. The movie ventures into interesting areas, but it is frustrating to have such a creative attempt fail in this manner. One can clearly find trademark Santosh Sivan camera shots in the movie. Watch for those close up shots of a camera, the sand flying, the water, etc and you know that Santosh Sivan is letting us know what he is present. In reality, those close up shots have no purpose in the movie. But you can be assured that Indian movie fans will be drolling over the beauty that Sivan has to show us. The truth is the beauty of a movie depends on an array of camera shots and angles, not just some patent 'magic' moment shots which do nothing to uplift a movie from its drowing state.

Final thoughts on Meenaxi -- If the movie was reshot frame by frame with a real exotic Indian woman (namely NOT Tabu), and a trained actor (namely NOT a male-model-turned-actor-who-has-not-learned-acting), the movie might be saved. Until then, like the sands of Jaisalmer, Meenaxi fizzles harmless into the horizon.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Arsenal -- The Greatest team in English Football History

What Manchester United? The media, the fans always go ga-ga over Manchester. Before it could be attributed to David Beckham, but he is no longer there. And now it's finally time to face the truth. ARSENAL are the BEST team in England. No more questions can be asked. Enough! They have finished the 2003-04 season unbeaten. If you factor in things like how the League gave Arsenal severe punishments for merely pushing Ruud Van, how Arsenal were without Wiltord & other key players for most of the season, how Arsenal had the smallest squad in the league, then their achievement seems even more improbable.

The Gunners have the best player on the planet in Thierry Henry. Forget Zidane, Ronaldo, Raul, Nedved (of Juventus), Henry is the real deal. This is another fact the International media seems to ignore. Everyone seems to be dazzled by Real Madrid but Arsenal deserve a lot more credit than they are given.

For now, Arsene Wenger's boys are the best there are!!!!!!!!
Thank you Gunners for giving the fans a great season (the F.A. Cup and Champions Cup losses pale in comparison).

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Calling India

Well it was a typical quiet wednesday night. Then the phone rang. As I picked the phone up, the static and noise on the other side indicated, yup, this was another call from India and its growing call centers.

So I was prepared for the typical run drum routine.

Caller: "Are you Mr. []."
Me: "yes I am."
Caller: "I am calling from StarTech [or whatever the 'star' name is] and I want to ask you first if you are Indian.."
Me: "Actually I am not interested. I have got calls from you guys before."
Caller: "That's fine, I am not asking anything. I just want to know how much you pay for your long distance calls to India."
Me: "I don't call India [which is the damn truth]"
Caller: "What! You are an Indian and you don't call India?"
At this point I could have said a number of things but I have wanted to hang up on these guys for the longest time and that's what I did.

A much better answer would have been:

Me: "Do you call Spain?"
Caller: "Why would I want to call Spain?"
Me: "Exactly." At this point I should have hung up.

So this new kid was clearly not trained about the proper sales technique. But what can you expect? These new generation of kids might live in India but they are not Indian. Their lives revolve around everything American -- from the multiplex movies to eating out at Mc D's, Pizza Hut, TGIF's, etc, shopping at the brand name stores, etc. Oh yeah, let's not forget the fancy happenning cell phone. For some reason, this Indian kid was not talking in the fake American accent these guys are trained for. Maybe he thought since he was calling an Indian, there was no need to fake it up.

Just because someone has a last name of India, does he mean that person is expected to call India? Maybe this is why Gustad's 'Bombay Boys' hit more of a chord with Indians living outside of India than in India.

I have met people whose 2-3 generations have never been to India. Is there anything wrong with that? In this day and age, we are still stuck on traditional identities. A sad fact.

Oh well. Much ado about nothing. East is East, West is West. The two shall meet but apparently not via a phone line.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Movie Talk

Some thoughts on recent movies:

1) The Corporation -- the 2.5 hour documentary has some chilling insights into the cruel greedy corporate world. Unfortunately, the film runs a little longer than it should. The points are hammered home in the first 30 min or so, with the remaining time spent on repeating the same things or pursuing examples which don't serve a purpose.
However, for people who have never seen anything wrong with the corporate world, this one sided view offers a wake up call. There is nothing wrong with presenting this lop-sided view as the media is constantly busy trying to shove views down people's throats.
The film contains interesting interviews with Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Vandana Shiva.

2) Kill Bill Volume 2: The second half of a single movie is interesting enough, though it drags on a wee bit longer than it should have. For pure kicks, the first movie is a relentless rush. The second one, although slower, focuses on interesting character development and witty dialogues. Die Hard QT fans swear by this movie. But despite some great scenes, it seems QT should have listened to Miramax and edited the movie into a single version, with the remaining 45 minutes or so available on DVD.
Instead we have 2 movies, and 3 possible DVD's. QT fans have no problem with that. But this is a dangerous precendent set by a film studio -- producers have power to slice a movie openly as they please and the general public are not allowed to complain.

3) Big Fish: What's the big deal? Really. What is so great about this? Nothing. One of the most boring movies in recent times. Not according to the critics though.

4) Bubba Ho-Tep: An ancient Egyptian mummy in cowboy boots. Hee Haw. Elvis is alive, and so is JFK, although the former president is stuck in someone else's body. Sounds like fun, don't it? Well it ain't. Neat germ of an idea. But....

5) The House of Sand & Fog: An interesting watch. Not a chilling thrilling as the critics made it out to be, but yes, the movie does have an interesting end.

6) Something's Got to Give: And it does. Diane Keaton is fab in this one. Sure, the movie is predictable. It's meant to be. If you miss this, nothing is lost. If you see it, nothing really is gained there.

7) The Passion of the Christ: Hmmm...what can you say about this one? It is not a pleasant watch. Is it worth watching? If you skip it, you don't miss much. If you do see it, you will see an interesting perspective of the horrible physical suffering of Christ. Pure, raw suffering -- flogging, blood, skin coming off, nails being driven through a palm.

8) Hellboy -- Has some humour with some interesting moments. Not an edge of the seat movie. But a more mature Comic book movie than some others in the genre.

9) Main Hoon Ha -- good for you man. You 'can be' as much as you want man. I really don't care. For the record, 'main bhi hoon na'. What do you have to say about that?

10) Don't tempt me -- Ok, I won't. But Penelope Cruz does tempt. An interesting view of Heaven, Hell, Angels in heels, and the rest in between. Along the lines of Kevin Smith's 'Dogma'.

Scribbles and Ramblings

As things begin, so must this blog. Here we go.
History will remind us how special this week was:
1) Valencia crowned Liga Champions after an astonishing collapse by Real. Nothing fake about the win there -- pure hardwork.
2) Arsenal remained unbeaten after 37 games. Thanks to Reyes -- the Spanish connection.
3) Werder Bremen won the Bundesliga in the best possible manner, a 3-1 win away to defending champs, Bayern Munich. The result left no doubt about the best team in Germany.
4) Milan & Roma take dives. But will it be enough for Perugia?
5) 5 in a row. Zoom Zoom.
6) 3-2 overtime win for the red hot Flames. Sharks or no sharks.
7) Stand off. Enough said!!!