Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

Invictus: A Review

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ello All

This'll be a short one again.
Invictus, for those who haven't been waiting anxiously, is the story of how Nelson Mandela asked the South African National Rugby team, the Springboks to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela. Matt Damon plays the team Captain Francois Pienaar and to round it all up, Clint Eastwood has directed it.

As you can imagine, it's hard to conceive of anything going wrong with the movie.

Fact of the matter is, not a whole lot goes right.

It's a tremendous story and the dedication to facts in set design and screenplay is phenomenal. Even the actors (In fact they are Rugby players themselves) playing Rugby legends Chester Williams and Jonah Lumu are thoroughly genuine.

But for some reason something like 90% of the films actors are either local actors or just locals. While that certainly seems like a good authentic idea, honestly, it killed the movie for me. True the accents were real and true it's a novel approach, but there was no charm, no feel and therefore just flat delivery. Fact of the matter is, while it's interesting to try 'real', on camera it just came off as even more 'fake.' A bad fake.

Even the proper actors, failed to impress me. Matt Damon, possibly trying to be a closer rendition of Pienaar was not a typical film 'team captain'. He was downplayed and quite refreshing. I must admit though, I only think he's not been roundly slated for the role because it's a true story. In terms of film roles, it's certainly not his best.

Morgan Freeman was, as he always is quite superb in delivery and charm. The problem for him, if he is hoping for an Oscar, is that I don't think the lines he was required to say were nearly good enough, even if he did say them so well. Although that's a similar problem Forest Whitaker had and well, he managed just fine.

It comes down to this. Excellent story. But the screenplay just let it down so often. Eastwood's direction did so much to help but the lines were hammy, the story didn't have anything surprising about it (Except of course for Good Luck Bocke, which was just awesome- even if it weren't true!) there was never anything to keep you going and in the end it all seemed like a hagiographic attempt at glorifying Mandela. Yes he is deserving and yes he is awesome but for God's sake get a room. Also, the end slow motion montages seemed like they just ran out of footage. And there were several small shots and camera angles which seemed so out of the blue the film lost rhythm.

Speaking of which, may I just say Kyle Eastwood is one of my favorite new music writers. If there is one thing that makes this whole movie worth it, it is the sound track. And I'll save you the trouble, he IS Clint Eastwood's son.

In a final analysis, watch it. It's a great story. But don't expect anything huge. It's not the greatest film.

So far 2010- I'm a bit disappointed.

War Profiteering

Friday, January 15, 2010

I have always found a place in my life, for the music I love most. I have attached a song or an album to sometimes things as simple as a fleeting emotion, an entire book that I'd read or even an entire phase in my life. Let me state for the record that in the past few months I have heard at least 10-12 new albums, some which have been great, some not so much. But this obviously provided me and a population with a host of new material to attach our lives to. In any case I feel that’s what one of music’s most important functions should be. People do not want to listen to happy songs when they’re sad. They want to listen to sad songs when they are sad.
And how strange that this season I have been so lucky to find not hope or love or optimism. I found strength.

Battle studies is definitely one of those albums. John Mayer has surpassed himself and proven to be the best musician-singer-songwriter-guitarist of today, without any doubt whatsoever. He has effectively bridged old-fashioned blues and contemporary pop to produce an epic album, my favourite of last year. He described it as a ‘guidebook to relationships’, which could not be more true. If you are in a relationship, or just got out of one; if you have had your heart physically torn from out of your chest, and you feel helpless, if you feel trapped, or unloved or indifferent, remember not to lament. Don’t give up or give in, just be brave. Fight on.

Another album that has helped me so much was brought to my attention, c/o my homie Anish. In the last few months I have been thoroughly occupied with a crapload of work, family, choir (more about this later), and more recently, exams. This has been my first set of exams since I started this job, and I was trying hard to balance studying for the former while coping with work. So all in all, I did not study too great for these internal papers.
It is a 10 minute walk from my home to college, and in that time I always make sure I’m listening to some good music, and I thank my stars I found 30 seconds to Mars’ new album, This is War to help me get through that.
This album is the long winding battle cry of a soldier in the field that makes his fellow countrymen fight with all that they have for another 10 minutes. It is the roar of a hundred men, which puts fear in the enemy that has a thousand. It is the question of morality and futility, but ultimately is the guts to go out and face another day.
I took those emotions and attached it to my fear for the exams, and I think that while I did marginally better in the exams, I came out a much more relieved person.
The band produced the music and vocals in a studio, but then brought an entire hall of fans, to record with them on this album, which gives it huge sound. To hear a thousand people scream ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ is more inspiring than I can possibly explain.

To sum up, listen to these albums only if need them. They have saved me. If not, put it away for the day when you feel you do. Fight on.

P.S. - Jared Leto is awesome.

I have never been a big fan of horror movies. Its not that I don’t enjoy them, per se, it’s just that I very rarely get scared or touched in any way when watching one. The only horror movies that have ever touched a chord in me, on a deep chilly level has been “The Exorcist” (surprise surprise) and “The Omen Trilogy”, both of which I own on DVD and have watched alone at home many a time. Since the creation of these movies, there has never been a movie that I have wanted to watch over and over again, or talk about, forget writing reviews.

I ignored the Blair Witch phenomenon. I watched the movie, sure, and while I admired the use of documentary film-making in terms of horror, I shrugged after watching the movie, and my exact words I recall was “Meh”.

However, Paranormal Activity aroused my interest for many reasons. 1) The extreme hype that surrounded it, 2) The abnormally minimal budget used to film it ($ 15,000) 3) It was being called the best horror movie of the decade. 4) The story seemed simple enough to have potential: a couple who believe they are being haunted, decide to film themselves and their home to spot any evidence of ghosts/demons.

A friend who I have always admired for his cool and calm head, lent me the DVD and warned me not to see it alone, and while I scoffed at him at the time, I'm glad I took his advice.

If you break it down into pieces (which you really shouldn’t do), analytically, the film isn’t a masterpiece. However, it does the one thing its supposed to do. It chills you. Its quiet, and theres no gore, or anything stereotypically scary but before you know it, you’re leaning back in your seat, and wondering why the heck you’re scared, because nothing has even happened. The entire film is set primarily in the couple’s bedroom, with a few minutes spent in the living room. It’s a movie based on conversation and a hand-held camera, a movie that while you say “Oh well, that wasn’t so bad”, once its done, STILL somehow has the power to keep you awake all night.

A friend and I watched the movie at 11pm, and by 12:30, it was done, and we bragged about how this was a bunch of overrated hype, and there was nothing scary about it. Then we went to bed, and managed to get sleep only at around 5am. Like the best of horror movies, there is no logic to why you should be scared. You know you aren’t possessed, you know there aren’t demons in your body, or ghouls under your bed, you also know that you’re an adult and you should really know better. Yet, like the best of horror movies, Paranormal Activity, gets you asking yourself the most creepy question of all : What if?

Ello All,
This won't be a very long post. The film scarcely deserves a decent length review.
Don't get me wrong- it's not that the film was bad or anything. It just wasn't very good either.
I read a review some weeks ago and I decided to pay no heed to it. I am a Guy Ritchie loyalist and I will not lose faith.
And it is hard to blame the guy solely. There is some EXCELLENT action in the film and he's got some killer slow motion sequences as always but beyond that there's very little he could have done.
If I had to blame anything it'd be the script. The plot line is nice and all but better suited to a 42 minute show on TV.
The acting as well is good but there's rarely anything worth remembering. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law have phenomenal chemistry but, end of the day, you could have put any two actors and their British accents instead and it'd be hard to tell the difference.
The only actor who comes out with any real merit for me was Mark Strong.
Generally, it was just an underwhelming experience and I do believe the script was just never worth the cast or director. Yes it's a fresh take on Holmes and indeed it is funny at times but I did not come out with anything but a shrug.
His deductions are very good and him and Watson are an excellent team and yes he's quite a character with some brilliant inventions/ observations but none of that leads to anything bigger. It's just a whole lot of foreplay.
A special mention must go the awesome score, and the awesome closing credits sequence.
This movie was meant to herald in 2010's list of bad ass releases.
I hate Madonna.

Boston Legal: Clever Clever

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ello all,

Over the last few days, I have started to re-ignite certain fires I once had which had somewhat subsided. Conspiracy theories, ethics, and the long winded thoroughly idealistic pursuit of truth.

As such, seemingly unintentionally, I watched three films which have me in a 'mad' stir. The first one is Zeitgeist Addendum, the much improved follow up to Peter Joseph's first documentary. While most of what is suggested and proposed throughout the film is not entirely sound the facts and information put forth are at the absolute least overwhelming.

So I watched Good Night and Good Luck. A stunning, beautiful movie about some of the greatest journalism in modern times with just phenomenal lucidity.

Which led to the third film. I've been aching to watch it since the first Zeitgeist where we were shown clips from it and sure enough, it did not disappoint. Network, the edgy, gutsy painfully truthful film surrounding one Howard Beale. (What surprised me most, is that a film so ideological, could feature such beautiful thoughts on love.)

But what do any of these films have to do with Boston Legal?

Let me put it this way- All three films have had great critical acclaim and relatively less public appeal, therefore reinforcing that old idea that being idealistic and honest and making money do not go hand in hand.

In fact to many, me included, it always seemed like the gulf between hard hitting truth and good entertainment was too wide to bridge. So why should a television channel air facts about how horrid our world is today when they could just show you an episode of Desperate Housewives?
The people want it, they'll say. At 9 pm after a long day of work people want escapism and underwear not morality and debate.

And then Boston legal came along with the perfect balance. A quirky, funny show about lawyers and courtroom dramas that forces you to hear facts and question things. As fun and light as Ally Mcbeal and as gut wrenching as The Practise. No surprise it took the same man, David E Kelley to find the thing that'd join them so perfectly.

All three films I mentioned earlier raise the question about the responsibility of the Mass Media. About WHAT it should do WITH it's power and not how it should extend it.

And yet none of them quite utilised it's power fully. This playful drama has taken every single factor that makes television viewing exciting and used it responsibly like no other show I can think of, to get some kind of ideas out there.

I don't know statistically or otherwise what Boston Legal has achieved and I don't know whether or not it's just disguised itself intelligently. What I do know is, from the chair I'm sitting in, someone is trying and someone has found a way to make being articulate and intelligent cool again.

And even if you take away this seemingly bigger picture, the show features some of the freshest comedy on offer and has broken the fourth wall in some rather spectacular ways. Denny Crane going "Is the show over already?" Genius.

I miss the likes of George C Scott and Peter Finch. Intense, articulate actors who could shake you with a monologue.

I take great comfort in knowing the likes of James Spader are hear to lead a new line of awesome.

Norah Jones: Falling in Love with The Fall

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I have never been able to sing to save my life, and it is something I have made my peace with over the years. However, I whole-heartedly admire those who do sing, including Harry and Tejas and am content with being the only WeTheMember with zero vocal abilities.

One voice, in particular, I fell in love with some years ago, and I wished and hoped and prayed that her voice were mine. Despite the fact that after her debut album, much of her music has been disappointing, I stayed true to my love of her voice, her lazy croon, a voice that always made me want to curl up under covers with a book and a great sense of well-being. I stayed loyal to Norah Jones’ warm jazzy croon for 9 years, including the release of her new album, The Fall. 

While I downloaded The Fall in November, somehow I never found the time to listen to it until some days ago, on a long bus ride in an attempt to mar my thoughts. Norah didn’t let me down. While her last few albums have been mediocre imitations of her debut album “Come Away With Me”, her latest album shows that YES, she is willing to experiment with her beautiful voice, and isn’t afraid to step out of her comfort zone. Instead of falling back, yet again, into her jazzy/bluesy comfort zone, Jones has now stepped into rocknroll, leaving her trusty piano behind to embrace a guitar instead. 

The Fall, the result of a painful break-up, is a beautiful album that reaches out to lonely nights and heartache. Her lyrics are raw and honest, and soothe you where it hurts. Listening to this album, gives you the same comfort that a bartender gives you over many martinis. He doesn’t know you, but he exudes understanding. Norah Jones and I have never met, but in the three hours I spent with her in a bus, I knew that on some strange level, she understood. 

My personal favorites in The Fall, are “Back to Manhattan”, where in her unique voice she sings, “I’ll go back to Manhattan/ It’s just a train ride away/ I know nothing ’bout leaving/ but I know I should do it today” I identified with it instantly, because if you switched Manhattan for Sharjah, and a train for a bus, that was me in a nutshell. My other favorite is “Man of the Hour”, which is Jones’ ballad to her dog, where she croons: "And though we’ll never take a shower together/I know you’ll never make me cry/You never argue/You don’t even talk/And I like the way you let me lead you when we go outside and walk/Will you really be my only man of the hour?” A song that not only made me think of Harry and the comfort he derives from his dogs (a comfort that made me jealous sometimes), it also gave me my first smile in days. 

And since just recently, I listened to someone wax poetic on converting pain into art, my admiration for Norah Jones has now transcended into more than just coveting her voice. She took her pain, and her brokenness and she used it. She reinvented herself, removed herself from what was comfortable, and leaped. Even the most ardent haters of Norah Jones cant call The Fall yet another reproduction of her debut album. She took a risk, and emerged triumphant. She fell and is better for her Fall. 

P.S – The dog on the cover, is unfortunately NOT Norah Jones’s man of the hour. He is just a beautiful dog named Ben. Her actual Man of the Hour, is a 20 pound poodle, who according to Norah Jones, would have created chaos if allowed on any set. Ben, in my opinion however, would be the perfect Man of any Hour, non? Isnt he just beautiful? 

The All of us.

The All of us.