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Mutate!

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Saw X-Men: First Class yesterday. First thoughts –

– Magneto is super cool. He’s just below the Panda in terms of ‘awesomeness’. He has a magnetic personality in more ways than one, no wonder he attracts so many followers. The helmet he wears might be good against Prof X, but I doubt whether it’ll be able to withstand bouncers from Holding/ Garner/ Croft/ Roberts.

– Professor X (who apparently is called ‘ex-Zavier’ and not ‘Xavier’) is a preachy, condescending pain-in-the-backside know-it-all with an unhealthy obsession with purple lip gloss. It’s a miracle that the X-Men end up staying with such a manipulator for so long.

X-Men is quite a sexist name. Surprised how come no one has cribbed about that yet.

Mystique is for sure what we call a late bloomer.

– I feel distinctly inadequate now, given my complete lack of any abnormalities/ talents. It would have been nice to have had at least an extra finger or a luminescent nose**, just to show that I was not falling behind in the evolutionary race.

– Given my current work profile where I essentially go and ask people to pay back the money they owe us, I would like to become a mutant with superb recovery skills. My name will be ‘Vasooli’. My catchphrase will be ‘Show me my money!’.

– I would not have complained had the movie gone on for a couple more hours. It was quite ‘First Class’. Top Class. A-1. Raapchik. Fattack!

** Clearly, Hrithik Roshan and Rudolph are advanced specimens of their respective races

Written by sujaybedekar

June 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

It’s complicated

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There might be spoilers below, but quite frankly, it’s less about the story and more about the other stuff which makes ‘The Social Network‘ so good. So you decide whether or not to read on.

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TSN (or ‘The Facebook Movie’, as it’s referred to by quite a few people) is possibly the non-nerdiest geeky movie of all times. Like what xkcd says, some people like being called geeks, some get offended, most people in either category don’t really know what a ‘geek’ is. It might be helpful to educate yourself on this.

I was unsure whether to be embarrassed of my nerd-roots or feel proud about them while watching the initial portions of TSN, when I could actually follow the things ‘Mark’ does to hack into websites to create the image database for his Facemash venture. It reminded me of things I’ve done (and people around me did) what seems like ages ago – writing scripts to download ‘pics’ from various websites and black-listing network id’s in the process; using codes to make the mundane and repetitive tasks less painful; spending a day to write a code to automate a 5 minute daily process (I do that sometimes at work even now, to be honest). But that was where the nerd bit ended.

After that, it was all about the idea. There’s been another very recent movie which focused on how powerful an ‘idea’ can be, equating it to a virus for emphasis. TSN is essentially about the underlying principle on which all social networks, virtual and real, are built on.

The lead actor Jesse Eisenberg – who, I have to mention, looks Jewisher than Jerry Seinfeld, the real Mark Zuckenberg and all others of his faith who have taken over Hollywood right now – manages to ensure that people don’t remember him as the kid from Zombieland or Adventureland, which is quite a feat. Justin Timberlake’s a bit weak playing a personality as colourful as Sean Parker (here’s a slightly long but quite interesting Vanity Fair profile), but otherwise the casting is quite spot on. The script is tight, fast and quite interesting. The director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, Benjamin Button) has proven himself already, and the screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin who is one of the best in the business right now (A Few Good Men, Studio 60,)

The characters are well-sketched, the dialogues crisp and fast-paced, the humour cheesy and a bit forced at times, the interludes between friends-turned-foes, foes-still-foes and geeks-and-the-rest quite well played.

TSN is one of the best movies of this year, but not the best movie ever (disagreeing here with Scott Adams). It’s a fascinating insight into the evolution of something which has become so integrated with our lives – the poking, the tagging, the sharing, the ‘Liking’, everything. Lastly, it’s an ode to the people who’ve given us what is possibly the best gift of Facebook – ‘It’s Complicated.’

Written by sujaybedekar

October 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

it was 3.30 in the morning …

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… and I was on my way back from a midnight buffet somewhere.  My autorickshaw was cruising along at a breakneck speed of sixty kmph. I say ‘breakneck’ because if the rick was to topple over due to a tiny, innocent bump on the fairly bumpy road, I would actually end up breaking my neck. There was an extremely arbit Kumar Sanu – Anuradha Paudwal duet (I think it was this one) blaring through the speakers with the singers competing with the insanely loud Jhankar Beats to get their point across – all I could hear was meeeooowww-dhish-tick-thak-thakka-dhish-tick-thak-thakka-weeoooooow. In short, life was good  in the fast lane.

Our ‘mosam‘, so as to speak, was rudely interrupted by this bright red Skoda Octavia which whizzed past us with a whoosh sound. It passed by so close that my rick encountered turbulence in its wake and started wobbling dangerously. Given that it was a 6-lane highway and that there wasn’t a single car in sight, neither the driver nor I (me?) appreciated this unwelcome attempt at closeness. The car then gave a Left-turn indicator and turned right.

Yeh chhokri log ko kayko gaadi chalaaneko dete hain, pata nahi saab (why they give cars to ladeez to drive, god only knows sir),” said the driver with a snarl on his face. I couldn’t really see his face because he was facing ahead, but I could definitely hear the snarl in his voice. I know – it was so sexist of him to generalize this, and it was so distinctly unfair to all those brilliant lady-drivers out there who ply our roads with deft skill on a daily basis without threatening other life forms. I would had protested vociferously, but it seemed pointless given the complete lack of a female audience/ rational audience.

We then saw the same Skoda parked a few metres ahead at the side of the road. I decided to do my bit towards registering my protest by peeking inside to glare as hard as I could at the driver. That was when I observed that the driver was, in fact, a girl. And that there was another girl sitting right next to her as well. What were the chances, eh?

For some reason, this reminded me of that scene from Crash, that spectacular Oscar-winning movie from 2004. The scene had Ludacris and another black guy moaning about how prejudiced white people are towards black people and how badly they stereotype them (black guys, that is). And then the two of them … well, see the video. (Embedding unfortunately not allowed for this video).

What can one say or do in such scenarios?

Written by sujaybedekar

February 16, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Posted in arbit, india, Movies, travel

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Jai Ho!

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The Oscars last year were, apparently, the worst Oscars ever (Here are John Oliver and Stephen Colbert making fun of the host Jon Stewart for hosting the biggest show that nobody watched). Look at who the nominees were for the best picture last year – Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood. All are movies which would neither set your pulse (hearts?) racing,  nor would they make you sigh in fond nostalgia. The winner ended up being No Country For Old Men which, as I have confessed before, I didn’t quite understand. Yawn!

The nominations this year had all the makings of a proper snorefest. There is the Benjamin Button movie whose concept is as interesting as a new toy is to a toddler; then there’s Frost/Nixon, which is a fairly irrelevant movie about old crooked American politicians who no one really cares about; Milk, which is your customary gay Oscar nomination; and The Reader, which is your customary art movie which no one but the nominators have seen.

Just to tie up loose ends, the Academy left out The Dark Knight from the Best Picture and Best Director noms. But then, probably because there is a God up there who has a soft corner for the Academy, they had the brilliant idea of picking Slumdog Millionaire.

Now let me be clear – I do not wish to imply that SDM is a bad movie; au contraire, it is a fairly well-made, well-edited and well-directed movie with enough stereotypes to appeal to a foreign audience while also containing enough controversy to engage the Indian public (Previous thoughts here). I am very tempted to give the Academy the benefit of doubt on this one – maybe they actually did like the movie. But the fact remains that SDM is not really an obvious Oscar choice. It involves the triumph of hope and destiny over all circumstances, a theme one gets to see in every third Hollywood movie. (Ed: maybe SDM is the ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ of  this year – another movie which I’ve never been sufficiently motivated to watch). I also doubt how much of a clout the film’s Brit-producers had while lobbying for the movie. Also, I do not believe that SDM is a better movie than The Dark Knight, leave aside Kung Fu Panda or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Anyhoo, by giving SDM nominations by the dozen (ten, to be precise), the Oscar-folks have ensured that viewership is not going to be a moot point whatsoever. People will wake up at 6 in the morning if they have to to watch ‘their movie’ win. They will cheer wholeheartedly when Rehman and Gulzar get the nude statues (never quite understood why they are nude, btw) and will be elated because of the belated redemption we will have finally received – it will be ‘the recognition we always deserved but never got’. Lagaan was nominated for Best Foreign Film, and look at the hype it generated. This will happen because –

1. We watch anything on TV as long as there is a possibility of bringing in national pride and honour into the picture. (Actually, we watch anything on TV. If you add ‘India’ and ‘winning against all odds’ to the mix, then we will watch it in droves. Also,

2. We are unapologetically (is that a word?) partial to anything or anyone Indian.

When a billion people think alike, the impact can be quite staggering. It can ensure that the 2003 Cricket World Cup becomes the largest money-spinner for the ICC when the Indian team reached the final against all odds. It is also why a first-round exit for India made the 2007 Cricket World Cup a complete flop – I personally know people who had planned a Caribbean cruise which was to coincide with some of the matches but which they canceled once India crashed out. It ensures why the Miss World/ Miss Universe/ Mrs. World pageants are so successful in India – it almost excuses giving away the crown to someone who doesn’t know that ‘people who live on in my heart’ do not count as people alive, or to someone who goes and marries an arbit prince just to satisfy a childhood fantasy (ok that is probably a wee bit mean). It is the reason why we nostalgically remember Bhanu Athaiya winning the Oscar ages ago for ‘Gandhi’, although less than a handful of us really know what he (she?) has done otherwise in life.

Anyway, remind me to wake up at 6.30 am (IST) on 23-Feb. That’s all I wanted to say, really.

Written by sujaybedekar

February 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Atonement-Slumdog mish-mash

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NB: This post contains spoilers for the book Atonement and for the recent ‘Indian’ movie Slumdog Millionaire. Also, it will most probably not make sense if you haven’t read the former (which I strongly recommend) and seen the latter (which is not a bad choice either).

Atonement‘ by Ian Mckewan has got to be one of the best books I’ve read. It has a wonderful, languid style of describing thoughts and landscapes, and yet manages to keep the story fairly tight. The book is essentially told through the eyes of a twelve-year old girl called Briony, and it describes the epic tale of her sister and her friend/ lover/ neighbour who get caught in a cruel chain of events with the Second World War as an imposing backdrop.

Slumdog Millionaire‘ by Danny Boyle is a decent movie which narrates a tale of love and destiny with the great slums of Mumbai as the primary backdrop. Watching the movie, I got the feeling that it was nothing spectacular, and could had in fact been much better.  and

I can see why the movie has been widely appreciated by a non-Indian audience. It has a lot of astonishing/ striking things which might not seem that odd to someone who has stayed in India all his/ her life but would certainly pique the interest of someone foreign. It’s more or less the same reason why I liked the movie ‘Cidade de Deus’ (City of God) so much. Slumdog, however, is NOT that awesome a movie. It is most certainly NOT the 34-th best movie of all times (at the time of writing) as indicated by the IMDb rankings. Rehman’s music in the movie, while pretty decent without a doubt, is NOT his best by any stretch – (Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Swades and Taal come to my mind immediately). The acting is ok, but definitely NOT Best-Actor material: the lead actor perpetually oscillates between shock and anguish.

My favourite part in Atonement (and I don’t know whether it’s there in the movie since I haven’t watched it yet) is right at the end, when a now-senile Briony hints (Again: Spoiler Alert!) at the possibility that perhaps, all that she has described in the preceding chapters might not really be accurate – maybe what she has narrated with great conviction might not have happened at all. But she sincerely believes it to be so true and inevitable that she convinces herself that it is, in fact, the truth. And you don’t really care that you’ve just been cheated out of a standard conclusion to a book with all the makings of a classic.

Now imagine if the creators of Slumdog had incorporated this into the ending – Jamal keeps on telling how he was destined to know the answers (which is a roundabout way of saying he was quite lucky), but just before the movie ends – he reveals that maybe the crap which he dishes out to the police officer as explanation might not really be true.

That would had been an awesome movie – maybe not a feel-good awesome one, but a whoa!-awesome one for sure.

Written by sujaybedekar

January 20, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Confessions – 3

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Actually an assortment of confessions – tikli-tikli ones, if you may.

1. I’ve never quite understood the movie ‘No Country for Old Men.’

Not that I tried really hard, truth be told. It is a bit tough to be that interested in the fate of random people who keep staring at you emotionlessly for 2-3 hours and then just die. ncfomI did love the part where the guy in black kills people using a pressurized fire-extinguisher-cylinder thingy by blowing holes in people’s heads. Repeatedly. Sigh, to think that all that killing happens because he is pissed at his hair dresser (possible spoiler alert).

The movie ends with a long monologue which I did not understand even more because a) it was long and endless. It was like that John Galt radio speech from Atlas Shrugged which makes you want to reach out and strangle him or at least flip ahead through FORTY TWO pages. Also; b) i had lost hope by then anyway. It was no country for men of all ages, clearly.

I just realized that I made another mini-confession above – I have not read the John Galt speech from Atlas Shrugged. In all fairness, I cannot claim to have read Ayn Rand well enough to find her boring. Thankfully, fairness and thorough knowledge are not pre-requisites for finding someone boring.

javier-bardem-en-no-country-for-old-men

Getting back to the movie – I seriously think that the Oscar folks thought the same way as I did about NCfOM –

Judge1: “Dude, I did not understand that shizzle.”

Judge2: “Dude, I didn’t either. Got balls to admit that?’

Judge1: <Looks down, then up with the same fear in his eyes as the second guy in the movie to be murdered> “Duuuuude!”

J2: “Thought so. Me neither.”

J1: “Let’s give them the Oscar. Then we’ll see who the joke is on, eh?”

J2: “Dude. Srsly. LOL. k.” **

This admission qualifies as a confession btw because previously, in response to ‘Did you like the movie?’, I used to nod sagaciously and murmur with an all-knowing look,”It is a different movie, I know. Not every one likes it.”  That pissed most people off and I most people I met ended up finding the movie quite interesting and thought-provoking. I couldn’t pull off my usual enigmatic stunt however when a colleague said with disarming honesty,” I did NOT like it. I did NOT understand it. It was too boring and I am not dense. What about you?” Different’ just doesn’t work then.

2. I have always sucked at Pac-Man. Glad to have that out of my system. This is a game I’ve played for ages without progressing beyond a few levels (three, to be precise). And this is not something I exaggerate (as I often do) to make it sound funny. There’s something about the ‘waka waka waka’ noise/sound whichpm draws me with its awesomeness like flames drawn to moths or vice-versa. But whenever I see Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde approaching (yes – those are the names of the coloured ghosts who keep chasing you. Yes – I have Pac-Man trivia although I suck at it) – whenever I see them in my vicinity, my hand-eye coordination just goes bonkers. Maybe I take the game too personally- I don’t quite know what my problem is. Most of the times I lose lives because I sadistically try to eat those buggers when they’re blue and slow and mesmerized by something I ate seconds before, but I always touch them when the spell has just vanished (people who’ve played will sympathize. Empathy is more welcome). This happens all the time – it’s like I’m jinxed or doomed to fail.

In my defense, my entire comp-gaming skill set is limited to Solitaire, Freecell, Snake, Minesweeper (at which i can say with complete immodesty that I totally ROCK!), Need For Speed (in which I got busted by cops while driving an Aston Martin DB myself an improportionately large number of times) and FIFA 07 (which I haven’t played in over 18 months 😦 ). The total amount of LAN gaming I’ve done – those multiplayer games like Halo and UT and WoW which are somewhat scary – is not more than 2 hours in all. But still – having Pac-man as my Waterloo kills me bit by bit, everyday. 😦

**The recent movie called Burn After Reading by the directors of NCfOM  is again quite different, actually. I liked it a little bit.

Written by sujaybedekar

November 17, 2008 at 1:16 am

Filmy Opinions

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There have been quite a few movies which I watched in the past few (quite a few) weeks, and here are my 2 pennies/ pence/ cents (but not reviews).

(Again somewhat long post)

Kung Fu Panda – Possibly the best movie of the year so far, which is a pretty strong statement to make given some of the releases so far ((notably – The Dark Knight). Sarcastic, witty, beautiful, detailed and oh-so-god-help-me funny. It shows why Jack Black is such a wonderful talent and how animation can sometimes actually take a movie to great levels. I heart Po totally.

A Wednesday Pretty laid back and mundane in spite of the tight storyline, but still worth watching.  One can wait for the video release provided no one tells him/ her the plot. Acting by Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher is brilliant – true stalwarts of Indian cinema, these guys. I still couldn’t get myself to fully accept the makers claim that a thug pees in his pants just because a snarling Jimmy Shergill is in the vicinity. Sorry, but just not gonna happen.

Phoonk – I wish I could say out loud, without any apprehensions, that –

a) The movie is insane, arbitrarily disjointed and oh-so-NOT scary. The same goes for its creator. b) The voyeuristic crow is the best actor in the movie which speaks volumes about the ‘actors’. c) A movie makes money when Revenues – Expenses > 0. Clearly, each cast member was paid no more than half grand. => Expenses ->0. => A Hit. Even K-Jo agrees with this hypothesis and calls it a sleeper hit (whatever that means).

Ideally I shouldn’t be afraid to say all these things, but I am petrified of Ramuji. Terrified that that he’ll hex me, phoonk me up or worse – sit me down and explain to me in mind-numbing detail how godmax Daud and Nisha/Priyanka Kothari are. That’s one major reason why most reviewers gave it a thumbs up, in my opinion – RGV had them sh** scared too. You might say I’m just being scared/ superstitious, but then you know what they say – It’s superstition until it happens to you. Brrrr …

Rock On – A nice rock movie with pop-style music, well-shot concert videos and songs which are refreshingly different (although not that awesome – you can’t play the audio alone in an infinite loop without a video playing simultaneously). I say pop, because every rock band should always have a bass guitarist, while the keyboard player is not a necessity. The story can be summarized in 6 words – band-disband-grow-reband-pathos-joy. Arjun Rampal takes up the Atul Agnihotri mantle of deadpan dialogue delivery no matter what the occasion and succeeds in being woodier than the entire Amazon forest. Farhan Akhtar sings better than he acts. Watching him being a successful, Jai-Sri-Krisna going I-Banker with a nice swanky house and a cute wife gives me considerable heartburn, but it’s ok  …

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na – The movie worked because it was different, which was quite ironic – the story is pretty old and predictable (two good friends who don’t realize that they are in fact made for each other). The acting is strictly ok. The gags are like old wine in a new bottle (or the other way round- don’t quite remember). There are a lot of glaring errors (lots of time warps to cover ~20 km in like 2 minutes) and random references which can please smart-asses but which otherwise must have passed unnoticed. Still, the movie succeeds because of its novelty, hype, freshness vis-a-vis the actors and a fairly peppy soundtrack (Only one complaint: the overdose of singers with heavy South Indian accents seemed a bit out of place at times). Overall it was good, but definitely not a masterpiece as some made it out to be. Its success can be more attributed to a paucity of decent Hindi films (the other movie which released on the same day was Love Story 2050. LOL!)

The Dark Knight – Brilliant movie, simply brilliant. First time in a long, long time was I actually on the edge of my seat. Heath Ledger’s death gave it a surreal effect, like someone was addressing you from the grave, and his acting was mind-blowing. The stunts were crazy and the movie could had gone on for like ever without anyone complaining. Not the #1 movie of all time, though.

Bachna Ae Haseeno – Ranbir Kapoor has a good screen presence, even when he wears purple lipstick to complement with his deep purple (coloured, not the band ka) t-shirt and pink khakis. His character’s inability to commit is not as cringe inducing as some thought, but the entire second half is full of predictable reconciliatory attempts which are … well, quite boring. Bipasha looks like an aging has-been hottie who ‘swallowed’ one-too-many times, thereby acquiring a positively scary voice. Minissha Laambaa looks like a cute frost-bitten bunny and displays a unique ability to deliver all her dialogues with her teeth firmly clamped shut. Deepika Padukone has a distinctly Marathi accent which seems a bit out of place in Sydney. But still, it is an ok movie – very colourful and hummable, but nothing more.

De Taali – Watching this movie was the closest I’ve ever felt to experiencing a Dementor’s Kiss (from the Harry Potter series) which sucks out all joy from your life (the kiss, not the series). I felt miserable for days after that, and would had given up watching movies altogether had I not been so jobless most of the time. It was not just not funny – it was anti-funny. The very opposite of funny. It was what Laughter is prescribed for when people call it The Best Medicine. There was just ONE joke in the entire frikkin’ movie, and that too I missed because I was out of the theatre recuperating. Worst waste of my time ever.

The 40 year old virgin – Nice, awkward movie which has its moments. I liked it more because I’m a big fan of Steve Carrell from The Office. Overall an okay watch.

Over and out.

Written by sujaybedekar

September 17, 2008 at 3:16 pm