Saturday, December 31, 2005

Not a good year?

I remember thinking at the end of last year about how great the year had turned out for movies. In fact most of the "best of 2004" lists that I came across talked about just how difficult it was to choose 10 movies out of an amazing number of great movies that came out throughout 2004. In the end, I managed to pick 10 and HAD to make another "special mention" list (in this post). Even then, there were quite a few good movies left that I didn't manage to catch early enough to be included in my list. Some of them I saw later and would surely have included in my top 10 list.

Anyway, this year is different for two reasons, which are probably related. First, I didn't see a lot of movies this year. I was just now making the list of all movies released in 2005 that I have already seen and I was shocked to see that as of this moment the list stands at a pitiful 29! Which means that it would be much easier to make a top 10 list this time around. But it also means that there are quite a few good 2005 movies that I still have to see, so this top movies list will probably not be very close to the final list.

The other reason why I think this year was different was that there simply were not that many great movies around. Like I said, these two reasons are probably related. Maybe I didn't see as many movies this year because there weren't too many worth watching. Or Maybe I don't think there were too many great movies simply because there are quite a few that I still have to see.

but what to do? One has to make a list when one has to make a list. Small matters like not having enough time to watch movies don't count when December 31 is already upon you. So, here are my movie lists for 2005!

Top 10 movies of the year

10) Batman Begins

9) Millions

8) Cinderella Man

7) Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

6) Sin City

5) Good Night and Good Luck

4) Munich

3) Jarhead

2) 2046

1) Crash

When I saw Crash and posted a review on this blog, I was under the impression that there'd be many movies that'll probably surpass it in my final 2005 top movies list. Turns out I still have to see any such movie. But as I said before, it probably doesn't mean a lot since there are still a handful of highly acclaimed movies that I still have to see. some of these (in order of decreasing likelihood to figure in this list) are:

1) Brokeback Mountain

2) Capote

3) Saraband

4) Walk The Line

5) The Constant Gardener

6) Syriana

7) Iqbal

8) Match Point

9) Page 3

10) Me and You and Everyone We Know

11) North Country

12) The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

13) Junebug

14) Paradise Now

15) Memoirs of a Geisha

16) The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey

And just in case one of your favorite movies of the year is not in either of these lists, chances are that I have seen it but it didn't make the cut when compared to the 10 movies listed here. Or that I somehow forgot about its potential while making the second list. So, some movies that I DID see but didn't think they deserve to be listed higher than Batman Begins are (and some of these missed it by the proverbial whisker, while others were probably easier to count out):

King Kong, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Squid and the Whale, A History of Violence, Serenity, Black, Howl's Moving Castle, War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Parineeta.

Among the movies that I have already seen, some special mentions:

Most disappointing: King Kong. But probably due to too high expectations on my part. It was extremely good in parts, which makes it worth a watch. But I was expecting something in the range of "awesome"! :(

Most underrated: Crash and Jarhead. Not because both of them are nearly equally good. But just because they are much better than what the reviews/ratings might suggest. Crash at least got a lot of accolades from some people (and topped Roger Ebert's list of top 10 movies of 2005 too!) but Jarhead was widely disliked. Or just not liked as much as people were expecting from a Sam Mendes movie. Maybe my opinion of Jarhead will change over time (I saw it only yesterday!), but I thought it was quite engrossing. Most likely not as good as some of the movies that I still have to see (Brokeback Mountain, Walk The Line, Capote, Constant Gardener etc.), but definitely worth watching, if only because of some great acting and some haunting images.

Most overrated:Black and A History of Violence. Good movies both, specially some of the performances. But neither deserved to be hyped as much as I thought they were. A History of Violence, specially, was too simplistic. Some good acting and a couple of well-done scenes carried the movie through but it sort of fizzed out in the end. Nothing great.

Best acting by an Ensemble: Crash. Already written about it here.

Best Background Score: 2046. No comparison here. In a fair world Wong Kar-Wai will win every best music award hands down for any of his movies that I have seen. He is the director, not composer, and yet it seems you can't separate any scene from the music that accompanies it. Its like sitting in a concert with your eyes closed (and if you open your eyes, the images on screen look like painting masterpieces!). But then, who says the world is fair. Sigh! I'd be on top of the world if they give the oscar to this. But I know it probably won't even be nominated. Easily the most exhilarating movie experience I had this year. Crash topped my list for many reasons, but for sheer pleasure of the senses, nothing came close to 2046.

Best special effects: King Kong. Again, no comparison. Nothing else that I saw this year (or probably ever) comes close to the way they showed Kong. Unbelievable!

Monday, December 19, 2005

I've had paralysis!!

Sleep paralysis, that is.... this morning...

Not that it was the first time I had it. It was pretty common when I was at IIT. In fact, there was a time when it was almost a daily occurence. For about 5-10 minutes (or at least thats what it felt like) just before being fully awake (or just after, depending on how you define being "fully awake"), I could not move any part of my body. Not a single muscle.

It was frightening at first. I had no idea what was happening. I used to put ALL my energy into trying to move my hand, or trying to turn my body (I don't think I remember ever being in this state when I wasn't directly facing the roof). After a while the fear went away. It was so common, that I sort of learned to not panic and just keep trying to slide a little to one side so that I can fall from the bed as that seemed to work the best.

For some reason this stopped happening since coming here to the US. But today it came back. With a vengeance. I don't remember ever having so many hallicunatory experiences in my sleep paralysis as I had today. It was almost as if I had 4-5 separate sleep paralysis episodes crammed within half an hour, some of them being truly horrifying. Or maybe I am hyping it more than it deserves. Maybe not "horrifying", but I really did panic more than once. The first time I didn't realize that it was sleep paralysis (out of practice, see!) and REALLY thought that there was someone in my room and I can't really see who he/she/it was because I was face-up and could not turn my neck even a little to the side. After some time, even though I could swear that I could see the hair on the head of the person who seemed to be pulling me by my legs, I began to realize that this is just a sort of dream even though my eyes were open (I thought so then, and after reading a bit about it I think I was right... my eyes must really have been open). Still, it was pretty disconcerting to not be able to move a single muscle even after trying my best for what seemed like 20-25 minutes AND having hallucinations about some presence in my room, and my window being open with a snowstorm surging outside (I actually thought I saw snow coming inside the room by the window, I could hear the wind, and I actually thought I felt a little cold from the wind!). It was exciting and unnerving at the same time. Unnerving because if it is a symptom of me not sleeping properly, then maybe I should do something about it. Specially when I DO know that I've been having some problems with my sleep over last month or so.

Anyway, I took an appointment with my doctor and went about googling for what it might've been really. It doesn't take long nowadays (specially with the advent of wikipedia!) to find anything about anything. Turns out what I was thinking to be a "lucid dream" till that point is more accurately termed as "sleep paralysis". Read the article about it on wikipedia, here. They also talk about the accompanying hallucinations and its amazing how accurately it describes what I felt.

Experiences like this make one understand why exactly do people in almost every society believe in ghosts/spirits etc. In the absence of any knowledge of what the phenomenon was, its only natural to believe that whatever one saw/heard/felt was real. In fact, in a sense, it seems "more real" than reality itself. As in, if someone grabs my leg in real life, it probably won't "feel" as much as I did then. Its almost as if the nerve endings on my skin have increased by an order of magnitude! The wikipedia article also talks about cultural references of sleep paralysis and if we go by the chinese belief, I can say that my body was "possessed by forces from the dead" this morning! :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Kong is no king!

Not yet, anyway...

King Kong released this wednesday with a hype as huge as Kong himself. There were plenty of reasons why the hype seemed justified. It's Peter Jackson's follow up to Lord of the Rings movies. It's the most expensive movie ever made, with the production budget standing at 207 million dollars! The trailers, even though they left me a little disappointed, seemed to be exciting enough for a lot of people, what with some great special effect sequences included - the little clip of Naomi Watts standing between Kong and a T-Rex itself seemed worth the price of the ticket. A film can go one of only two ways from this. If it is well made, it becomes one of the biggest movies of its time (Titanic!). If it is not made very well, it becomes a disaster and sends shudders through the industry (Hulk!). So, I was eagerly looking for the initial reviews of the movie. Turned out, the first few reviews that came in were overwhelmingly good! I remember seeing only 1 out of the first 28-29 that wasn't favorable. (It has since gone a little down... standing at 83% positive). That, as far as I was concerned, sealed the deal. This is clearly going to be a huge movie, I thought. a 300+ million monster. The box-office number sites were predicting a 20+ million opening on the wednesday and a 65+ million weekend.

The numbers for wednesday are in.

9.8 millions!

No one really knows what to make of this. I honestly thought it was a typo. Everyone is going to wait for the friday's estimates now. Anything less than 15 million, and the movie will probably not cross 150 million, even with good word-of-mouth. Anything above 25, and its going to be HUGE!! 20-ish, and it'll probably go on to around 250 million. That is nothing compared to Titanic (or even Return of the King, considering that Titanic is such an outlier!) but it should be good enough for the studio. As of now, they have just one straw to hang on to. Something similar happened last summer with Shrek-2. Everyone was hoping a monster hit and it brought in JUST 11 million dollars on its opening wednesday. Postmortem analysis had begun already but it turned out that the audience was probably not aware of the movie opening on a wednesday. It had probably the second biggest weekend ever (105 million probably) and went on to make 400+ overall. I hope that is the case here too. And with some good word-of-mouth it might very well be.

I'm not too sure about the good word-of-mouth part, though. I thought it was OK. In parts, pretty good too. But not even close to being year's best picture or anything. Not even close to LOTR movies in any manner. It could've been much better had Peter Jackson not overindulged himself. He did something similar to Return of the King, but it didn't hurt it much because of such a huge fan base. Not sure that will happen with Kong, though.

They have publicised the movie as a return to jurassic park. great special effecs, great thrills. An adventure movie through and through. Which is what disappointed me when I saw the trailers actually. Turns out that that description is justified only for the middle hour or so of the movie. The first hour is all drama, slowly introducing the characters and building up to the adventure ride. A tad too slowly, in fact. There are some hilarious scenes here, but overall, he could have rushed a little in this part. Then comes the next hour/hour-and-a-half full of one-scream-after-the-other action. Something that will probably mean the movie will make good money internationally, but not something that, by itself, makes a movie great.

Don't get me wrong, this part is actually done pretty well. The dinosaurs could've been better made (I can see why my kids will probably scream at some of these scenes and say "but dad! that is SO clearly animation!! Can't you see that the actors seem to be OUT of the plane of the dinosaurs?"). But almost every scene involving Kong is done superbly. Its impossible to think that we are not watching a real huge ape on the screen. Compared with Gollum (which itself was great CGI work, but looked artificial all the same), this is a HUGE leap forward. Its astounding that we can now make such creatures come alive and give them such believable emotions/expressions. All credit to Andy Serkis - the guy who played Gollum in LOTR and plays Kong here - and the technical crew behind this.

Probably the biggest challenge in front of anyone who decided to film King Kong is to make the relationship between Kong and Darrow believable. I don't know how it was done in the original, but at least here I thought they did it extremely well. Even though it will always be a bit difficult to digest that a woman can fall for a 25 foot ape, some of the scenes are quite successful in depicting that. The tender moments between the two of them are quite cute and, for me, are the best scenes of the movie. Naomi Watts is great as Darrow and, as i said before, Andy Serkis gives Kong great expressions, specially in these scenes with Watts. In fact, the half-baked-romance between Watts and Adrien Brody is MUCH less believable than the Darrow-Kong affection (calling it romance will probably be too inappropriate. And inaccurate as well.). Brody is disappointing. Too wooden, specially in the scenes with Watts. The last scene between the two is absolutely hilarious due to its unbelievability, when it should've been touching. I am starting to think that Brody's oscar for The Pianist was a fluke. He did OK in The Village but I am still to see anything else by him that'd convince me that he's a great actor.

That brings us to the last part. It's this that really disappointed me. The first hour was at least engaging, even though overlong. The last hour - the scenes set in a great recreation of 1933 New York City - does not move you, it does not delight you and it is not awe-inspiring. It does nothing. Except bore. There are still a couple of scenes here that are great. A superb scene on a frozen lake and another with Darrow and Kong on the very top of the Empire State building. But that's about it. All the destruction of the NYC roads and building by Kong are not thrilling enough. Probably this part suffers in comparison because it comes after the superb sequences on the island. Or maybe by this time (2.5 hours from the start of the movie, 12:30 in the night), I really wasn't too interested in a cliched car chase, cars banging into each other, or buildings falling left, right and center. But it DID seem to be stretching out a bit too much. Specially the climax on the top of the Empire State building was too long.

King Kong is not a Crash, so its not really a performance oriented movie. But I thought Jack Black was quite hilarious in the role of the movie director. He, as also the main duo (Watts and Serkis, NOT Brody) did quite well.

So, there you go. The movie might still get that elusive good word-of-mouth because of the great island sequences and might be a big hit (lets wait till the friday numbers for that), but it really isn't that great. Peter Jackson has been nominated for a Golden Globe for this. I think he can do better than this, though. More to the point, I don't believe anyone else hasn't done better than this in 2005.

Which begs the question, why 83% positive reviews? well, I guess I'll give it a positive review too. As in, it is definitely more than just watchable. It has its shortcomings, but there are some things in the movie that definitely shouldn't be missed. I guess a lot of other people thought so too. That is the problem with just looking at percentages. If 10 out of 10 people give a movie 7/10, then it gets 100% positive reviews but it still is a 7/10 movie, not a 10/10. Kong, for me, is a 7.5-8/10 movie. Better than 80% of the movies out there, but that's about it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Rajdeep Sardesai (and Rahul Tyagi) on Sachin

In the aftermath of Sachin's record breaking 35th century most of the desi media is replete with articles and tributes to him. Probably the best among them is this tribute by Rajdeep Sardesai in HTcricket. Great article.

In a sense, Sachin is our link to an India that existed before page three invaded our homes, before instant celebrities were manufactured by the media even if their achievements are shorter than the length of their skirts.

This is not just some one film hit star, who dances his way to the box office. Sachin's achievements are based on solid performance, on rigour, on durability and, above all, genuine skill, qualities that have made him a national icon.

Incidentally, the hype of the record left me strangely cold. Probably the single biggest emotion I felt was a sense of disappointment at this taking so long and relief that it didn't take even longer. I know I am probably being a bit too harsh and unfair on him, but then he IS my hero and I'll be sooo disappointed if he doesn't end up with at least 50 test hundreds. That is why these last couple of years have left me so sad and disappointed. Every inning that he fails in makes me think how incredibly underachieving his career is going to be at the end.

I know its astonishing how someone with 40-45 hundreds and 12-13000 runs can be perceived to be an underachiever. As I said, probably too harsh and unfair on him. But then, he is Sachin!

He IS my hero!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Another classic pic!

flickr took me to this wonderful Guru Dutt-Waheeda Rehman pic. In fact this person (balak) has some other great b&w bollywood pics. Click on the pic and have a look at them!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The scream you just heard...

Was Francis Ford Coppola's ghost. He just read this page on Rediff.

Raja Sen needs to get some coffee before churning out articles for Rediff Movies. If only someone realized my potential to be a good movie journo!


Update: For those who came in late and have no idea what I was talking about in this post, Raja Sen had mistakenly written "Fellini's Godfather" rather than "Coppola's Godfather" in the article. It has been corrected now, though. Quick Action!! :)

Cricinfo Fantasy Cricket

Was looking at some scorecards while doing a bit of research related to the recent cricinfo post about batsmen in runchases. Ran into this scorecard. Look at Sehwag's batting stats. 0 run in 30 balls in 1 min!! That Sehwag can play 30 balls for 0 run is probably more unbelievable than the fact that some bowlers bowled 5 overs in 1 minute! :P

Ganguly would probably have killed for having such bowlers in his team when he seemed to finish every innings about half an hour after the scheduled time! :D

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Trailer Talk

Last time I posted about movies, I talked about the trailer of Good Night and Good Luck and it being the most anticipated movie of near future. So, no wonder I went to see it at the first opportunity. Will probably talk about it in a future post. For now, lets talk about some other trailers that caught my attention since then.

I should've talked about Munich earlier in the context of most anticipated movies of the fag end of this year. I didn't, however, because no one was quite sure when Munich might release. Spielberg released War of the Worlds earlier in the year, and at that time there was no inkling that he might have another release lined up this year. Then again, Spielberg is Speilberg. Something happened, and he suddenly decided to go ahead with the movie and finish it before year end. The only reason I can think of is that he liked the final version of the script immensely and thought that it might be a major player at the oscars. To maximize the chances of a major oscar win, he'd have to release the movie either in Oct-Dec 2005 or in Oct-Dec 2006. He took 2005 as a challenge worth taking and went ahead with the shooting. No one, except for him, was sure that he'll be able to get it ready in time. But he seems to have done it. Probably only the background score is left and that should be done in time for the release. What this means is that no one knows about any "insider impressions" of this movie unlike any other major movie. No one, except for him knows for sure how the movie is going to look. So, no one really knows if it is going to be as good as it can be. Or whether it can get him a major nomination. All anyone knows as of now is that the recently unveiled trailer looks every bit as good as anyone could've expected. Looks like a hard-hitting movie in the mould of Schindler's List, and if Munich is anywhere close to being as good as Schindler, then the statuette might already be fedexed to his address. Then again, no one knows if that is true. It might turn out to be disappointing in the end. I hope it doesn't. Catch the trailer here.

I don't think I have been spending enough time tracking new trailers nowadays. So, something happened recently which hasn't happened for a long time. I went to see a movie and a trailer that preceded the movie surprised me because not only had I not seen the trailer before, I didn't even know that it was going to be released with the movie I had gone to see. Ok, end of suspense. The movie I had gone to see was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the trailer piggybacking on it was that of Lady in the Water - Manoj Shyamalan's next project. Nothing too special about what they show in the trailer, except that the music was quintessential Shyamalan. There aren't many directors around in Hollywood today who have such an amazing sense of music. Spielberg maybe. Tarantino surely. Some others too, but thats not too bad a list to be included in. (And I won't even mention Wong Kar-Wai here, he is in a league of his own in this context... Thats why I said "in Hollywood"!! :) ). There are times when what is being shown on the screen has nothing special and yet one gets the sense of watching something special simply because the music makes you feel so. This trailer is one such case in point. Mute it, and you won't feel anything. Turn the sound on, and you suddenly feel that you can't miss this movie! :) See the trailer here.

One trailer that disappointed me is the new Cars trailer. I have been a big fan of Pixar for some years now and was looking forward to this trailer even though the first teaser that they had released with The Incredibles was pretty lame. Then again, I had thought the same thing about the first teaser of The Incredibles yet the first full length trailer of that movie was superb. Not so this time. Cars will most probably be a great addition to the Pixar collection but this trailer does not show that. Alas! See the new trailer here.

Another one that failed to excite me as much as I had expected is the first trailer of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest . Not that there is much wrong with the trailer as such. Just that it looks a bit too similar to the first movie. Not that THAT is a bad thought considering how entertaining that one was. And too much of Captain Jack Sparrow is nothing to run away from. And another look at Keira Knightly can't hurt either. :P Anyway, I'll most probably end up watching it the day it releases. Just that the trailer didn't have anything too special in it. See it here.

Normally there aren't many hindi movie trailers I talk about here. But the recent Rang De Basanti trailer caught my eye (and ears!) :). Releasing in early January, the music is about to release sometime this week and should be something to look forward to. The one song that the trailer features doesn't sound too exciting though. Its ok, but the little snippet that one gets to hear in the trailer isn't too great really. If that is what they expect to be the most catchy bit in the movie's soundtrack, then probably the music won't catch the junta's fancy. I hope its not so. The trailer itself seems to have a heavy Dil Chahta Hai hangover. Might just be the effect of watching Aamir in a fresh, vivacious movie. At least that is how the movie is being publicised. And the trailer does full justice to that. Lets see how true that actually is. See the trailer here. You'll need real player for this one.

And while talking about trailers, let me put on record my gratitude to everything that Apple has done for us movie buffs. The glorious quicktime format is like nothing else I have seen online. And the latest High Definition trailers are nothing sort of revolutionary!!! :) Apple zindabad!!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Lets Say Thanks.

Its Thanksgiving evening here and people are having dinner with their near and dear ones. I am planning to do something similar. Have dinner with one of the DVDs that have been waiting for me for some time now. And say thanks for the miracle of movies.

Enough of non-movie posts on this blog! Now next few posts, if things go as I intend them to, are going to be about movies. Things I have been planning to talk about for some months but didn't get enough time for. What better use of a holiday? Lets Blog away!!

Two Wingmates, Google Talk and Collective Consciousness

Jeet, my wingmate (and a bit of friend, philosopher and guide) at IITB is re-reading the Foundation series nowadays. I saw him proclaiming "I like the Gaia concept" on his yahoo messenger status message and promptly saw an opportunity to engage in some geeky chatter. Needless to say, given a chance to chat with Google Talk I prefer not using anything else, so we started a little chat about the whole Gaia concept.

For those who haven't heard what Gaia is, It refers to a planet that is conscious as a whole. The consciousness of everything that is a part of that planet (people, plants, animals, even the presumed non-living things) forms a part of this whole superconscious. Everyone shares this "Gaia consciousness". This idea of collective consciousness is what Jeet liked a lot. And I was pretty excited about it when I read it too.

I know that a chat transcript is probably not the best format to post on a blog. Then again, probably a lot of people won't be interested in this post anyway. And those who are will probably not mind ignoring that little irritant/inconvenience.

So, here goes... Feel free to wonder how geeky (and how lukkha) can people be!! :)

Rahul: by the way Gaia concept (except for the shared feelings/consciousness thingy) is not very much off the mark.... its what I call the "scale invariance".... when you look at it, there is nothing fundamentally different between me as an organism and one of the cells in my body as an independent living entity.... similarly there's no reason for me to assume that my relation to earth (or terrestrial biosphere) is very different to that cell's relation to me..
to take it another step forward, its not very different from the relation of e.g. a ribozome to that cell..
and the relation of an atom to that ribozome.
scale invariance..

Jitendra: hmm.

Jitendra: main to shared memory aur distributed computing ke baare main sochta hoon :D

Rahul: that's why it is more "cool"/"interesting" than true for you...

Jitendra: Vaise scale invariance ke hisaab se bhi its difficult to say that 'gaia' exist at this scale..

Rahul: haan... it can't really be "proved" as such.. that'd depend on your precise definition of a "gaia" state so you can ask specific testable questions about that state... I just meant I feel it amazing to think that if a cell in my body can "think" then it will really have no reason to think that its playing a part in my life.. all it does it lives a separate independent life according to its own instincts and rules pretty much like I do..

Jitendra: Its like Gaia as a planet is a single organism that does not share its consciousness with other planets (organisms) in galaxy.. (there might be several Gaia organism in the vicinity)

Jitendra: In our case.. (humans and earth).. the similarity with Gaia ends as soon as we reach the scale of a human body...

Rahul: no... why do you think so? that'd be true if I actually shared consciousness with each and every cell (and why only cell? each and every particle) of my body... that's a claim that'd probably be very difficult to prove.... thats why I said that I'd probably stay away from speculating about the shared consciousness thing, but I can see the parallels in the relation between me and earth on one hand and a cell and me on the other..

Rahul: the fundamental difference between my idea of gaia (that I am talking about here) and the book's idea of gaia is that in the book the components of gaia's consciousness are actually aware of the fact that they are part of this superconsciousness... if that is not necessarily true, then the parallels do not really end anywhere... if I can be part of gaia without being aware of it, then for all i know, that might actually be true... the earth might be conscious and might depend on me for its consciousness... similarly gaia as a planet might not be aware of the fact that it is a part of another superconsciousness which is shared by other planets for example... again... scale invariance..

Jitendra: I mean to say that.. Relation of cells with humans is ' more' Gaia in nature than relation of humans with earth.. contrast is.. in one case its difficult to imagine each cell having 'consciousness' and in other case that we share it with others and earth..

Jitendra: but it can be argued that microorganisms (even single cell) have 'consciousness'

Rahul: oh, that we'll just have to agree to disagree about... i find it just as difficult to imagine that a cell has a share in my overall consciousness as me having a share in earth's consciousness... to me its just as plausible/implausible that the earth as a whole is conscious as a cell being a conscious entity...

Jitendra: Haan woh bhi hai.. book main to sabko pata hai.. !! (we don't know about planet because there is no direct IO for that)..

Rahul: this discussion can actually go on a blog, :P

Jitendra: Lekin aisa ho to kitna godgiri hoga. can you imagine the superbrain working !! but there might be a lot of chaos. (there already is)..

Rahul: :) nice things to think (and wonder) about..

Jitendra: Can you say that earth is a Gaia.. but its a bit sick right now :-)

Rahul: why do you think so... it might be like my skin cells (and red blood cells) dying every few cycles but me as an organism not being sick... maybe the environment not being conducive to humans as a species (or mammals as a collection of species.. or whatever) is just one part of a healthy gaia... we might not be doing too well, but that might still be contributing to a healthy (wealthy and wise) gaia

as I said, feel free to wonder why someone would talk about this thing and then post it on the blog.... :) I don't know.....

Monday, November 21, 2005

chicken tikka and julaabjaamun.

Women's cricket tours rarely get any spotlight at all, so I won't be surprised if some of you aren't even aware that the ladies from England are currently on a test tour of India. Charlotte Edwards is writing a tour diary for cricinfo. Her entry for November 14 has an unintentionally hilarious line. Describing their arrival at Delhi ariport, she says,
We were met at Delhi airport by girls with flower garlands which they put round our necks, and put dots made of chicken tikka paste on our foreheads.


Clearly someone told her that they want to put "teeka" on her forehead and coming from England, she probably had enough knowledge of desi cuisine to think that they are probably talking about the same dish that she loves so much. :)

Something similar happened when our lab went for a lab-lunch to a desi restaurant last month and one of the lab members said "I'll just go and get some julaab-jaamun". It was hilarious but I really didn't have the heart to tell him about the correct pronunciation and about what exactly "julaab-jaamun" might mean to anyone knowing hindi. :) I suppressed my giggle and just said "oh sure, I haven't tasted them but I am sure they must be good" :P

Will tell him whenever we go for lunch next... :)

Not a Karisma Fan But....

Karishma Kapoor
Originally uploaded by JanickG.

ran into a great pencil sketch of hers on flickr....

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sex, Marriage and Celebrity.

I wish I was a celebrity. I'd have loved to throw my hat in all the premarital sex issue and get my effigy burnt.

For those who don't know what this is about, see the news pieces here, here and here.

And just in case it wasn't obvious, I'd throw my hat on the side of those who are against those who are burning effigies and starting court cases and are militantly against premarital sex. That doesn't necessarily mean that I am advocating PMS, but if that is what it takes to get my effigy burnt, then maybe I DO mean that. :)

sigh! how much time do people have on their hands!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

/. joke #2

In the comments of a recent article about an anti-gravity device patent, someone had this to say...

I have an idea that actually works(Score:3, Funny)
by sznupi (719324) on Saturday November 12, @06:30PM (#14017465)

Fact 1: cats always fall on four feet
Fact 2: bread slice always falls with the butter side down
So...put a bread with butter on top of a cat, and throw it through the window.

Antigravity device ready.

/. joke #1 here.

Slashdot the Chronovore!

Ok, poor attempt at a neologism, I know.. but really, Slashdot is currently the single biggest time-eater in my life (probably surpassed by cricket as of now, but then cricket has seasons... /. doesn't). And even though I have been a more or less regular /. visitor for some years now, I *really* have discovered its comments and fora only very recently.

Now, those among you who don't care will probably.. well... not care and those who do, will probably find this a prehistoric newspiece but the real fun (and usefulness, unless you have a problem with thinking about /. in those terms) is not about reading the headlines and the articles and visiting the links given in the article itself or even about the "from the $dept department" line below the poster details (if you don't know what I mean, go to /. and see any article and the fine print two lines below the article heading), but going through the zillion comments on ANY article.

The articles that you really are interested in will probably be commented on by many people who are not only as interested as you (or more) in the same thing but have interesting views about the thing or a better insight into the matter than you do and just reading those exchanges will probably tell you some orders of magnitude more about the matter in question than the parent article itself. Even the articles not of direct interest to you have some extremely funny comments by people. You know, the ones of the "must read" variety. One can spend entire days reading these things and not be bored. (note to advisor: No, thats just a figure of speech, I DON'T spend days on it... maybe hours.. :P )

/. rocks. Really.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

spotlight phobia!

I have always been a bad stage-performer and that is true for all kinds of stages. It is probably understandable why that would manifest as a bumbling, fumbling interviewee when 5-6 strangers are sitting and looking at everything that you fail to do and listening to everything that you fail to say, but if that attack of nerves comes when the stage is actually about 10 meters from you and the person who actually is on stage is an interviewee and is not called Rahul Tyagi, I guess its fair to say that it is getting a bit too much.

A faculty candidate had his seminar today and I had some questions to ask him. And I am not dumb, even if I say so myself. Meaning that the questions I had were actually pretty relevant. The keyphrase here is "I had". They never came out. The moment I started speaking, all the cells in the nervous system froze and what finally came out of my mouth - amidst a generous deluge of "ammm.."s, "well..."s, "ahhh..."s and the like - resembled the actual question about as much as Adolf Hitler resembled the Statue of Liberty. Not much.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

lets say it...


Sachin is back!! and how!!

I know, I know, this is probably too stale a news but there was a reason why I didn't write about it before (other than the fact that I am lazy, that is). I did not want to write in the condition I was in. As in, the 93 was exciting enough but the 67 he followed it up with was a true thing of beauty. I needed to calm down a little just to ensure that I write something that is at least semi-coherent.

I haven't been watching limited overs cricket for quite some time now. Sachin wasn't playing and when he was, it wasn't really worth all the time and money one has to invest for watching cricket here in US. I used to buy packages for the major test series but that was about it. 20 days back I'd have bet anything in the world that nothing in the world can make me buy these stupid 12 one dayers. I mean, come on! Its not as if I am sitting on a pile of gold. At the end of the day one has to remember that a poor grad student can not quite afford luxuries like spending 130 dollars on what is essentially a completely inconsequential series of see-it-hit-it-out-of-the-ground circus shows, right?


All that was based on my certainty that Sachin isn't going to budge from his stupid stand that he is now grand old man of indian cricket and needs to play that way. Sorry, it might give us a few victories here and there and maybe some major scores in test matches but it still falls short of a big enough motivation to shell out 130 dollars. However, something happened over last few days that took almost everyone by surprise. And even though most of us have come out of the shock and are readying ourselves for whats hopefully going to be a great ride over next few years, Atapattu and party are still shell-shocked. One needs to see him at the presentation ceremonies to believe the extent of the shock. He looks miserable. Blabbers and stammers his way through those couple of minutes and looks as if he has reached the end of his wits. Not that SL hasn't improved. The last two games were much better for SL fans than the first two. That sachin failed in both of these last two games might have something to do with it. Think about it. Sachin is playing as if there is no tomorrow. Reckless like a 15 year old. Heck, even more reckless than Sehwag! And they lose even the two matches where his recklessness ensured that he won't have much to contribute to indian total. What are they going to do when, inevitably, he DOES get a start again?

Its amazing! he isn't even playing like he used to in his heyday (1996, 1998, 2000 etc). He was an aesthetic treat then. Now, its plain butchery. You'd never have caught him flourishing his bat with overexaggerated follow-throughs. And even though that earlier method is most likely more efficient AND more pretty than this current avatar, it must be said that while that inspired awe among the opposition this Sachin probably inspires dread more than awe. This might sound a bit too premature considering that he has only played two good innings in this manner and failed in the next two. And he might just go back to being the grand-old-man Sachin from next innings onwards. But, really, even if he does go back, these two innings will be unforgettable for the manner in which it caught the whole world unawares. He was coming back from injury, hadn't been doing proper nets till just a couple of days before the match and hadn't shown much to be too excited about in the challenger matches just the previous week. And then he walks into an international match and cuts everyone to size. As cousin Avy says in Snatch - Not Subtle, But effective!

No wonder I needed only about 5 overs of the first match to get sucked into putting my credit card number and pressing enter! Poorer by 130 dollars, richer by some great innings!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

207 effing million!!!!

Its official! King Kong will be released in a kong sized 3-hour version and the final official production budget will stand at 207 million dollars!! Read that again. Two Hundred and Seven Million Dollars! That makes it the most expensive movie ever made in hollywood - and that pretty much means on the planet. And even though Kong is no longer the most anticipated movie of next few months for me (having been surpassed by Good Night and Good Luck solely on the strength of its great trailer and a bit of background research that the trailer made me do), I'll still most likely see it the weekend it releases.

I know that's not saying much considering that I'm going to see Goblet of Fire on the day of release too. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

ToI Redux?

I came into the office this morning (which, as most of you already know, is quite rare) and ended up clicking a link that took me to the TOI homepage. Before I could realize my mistake and take evasive action the page loaded (was it faster than usual?, maybe...) and I was pleasantly surprised (shocked, I should say) to see a different page than what I was expecting. A sleeker look AND absolutely no sexed-up tabloidish celebrity news among the 7-8 headline pieces visible on the main page. AND no childish slide presentations put together and presented as cricket stories. What has the world come to?

Has something major happened in ToI headquarters or am I probably being a bit too optimistic?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Slashdot has this article about Martian crust having residual magnetism that seems to suggest that Mars had some tectonic activity/significant magnetism in distant past, making it even more Earth-like at least during some part of its history. As usual, the comments on the article are much more interesting than the article itself. Sample this:

Someone commented, with a title "Aliens?"
Seeing as how we do not behave exactly like every other animal, would there be a way that we could have come from Mars? Perhaps Adam and Eve were real and the first couple to come.

to which someone else replied:

Nah. Eve was faking it.

Heh! :)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Slow on the uptake?

Times of India finally catches onto the little Gandhi "newspiece" I had posted about a few days ago here. I am sure that article is on the Nobel Foundation website for years (considering that the relevant documents were made public in 1998), but its only now that one of the college kids working for TOI realized it. Just like I did while browsing their site reading about the Peace prize. Or, maybe, someone at TOI reads my blog for news!!! :)

I wouldn't be too surprized if that turns out to be true. Of late, TOI has taken to browsing the net and copy-pasting stories from other sites. I wonder what happened to all of its reporters/journalists? As of now it seems the staff of TOI consists solely of high school graduates doing perpetual internship at TOI offices.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oh, the bleeding heart!

Few people write as beautifully about cricket as Harsha Bhogle does. And its not the phrases, similes and just the language in general that makes it such a good read. Its the fact that in every word you read, you can practically see his smiling face. He pours his personality in his articles. They don't have the feel of a newspaper article anymore. You can almost feel his passion for the game. Maybe its because that is how I percieve him. When I think Harsha, I think this guy who speaks with more sense about this game than most people and yet behaves as any other excitable fan would when talking to the legends of the game. Trying to learn all the time. Very humble, very respectful and VERRRY much in love with the game and with his job.

That is why it is so much painful to read his latest piece in Indian Express. For once, you don't see his smiling face when you read the words. You can see an aching heart. Harsha puts into words exactly what I am feeling right now. Read it here.

The Noble One.

Nobel week is here and three awards have already been announced. Medicine, Physics and Chemistry. And amazingly, the accomplishments of medicine and chemistry laureates are quite easily understandable to anyone with a high-school science background! Can't say so for physics though. But then, if ever there's a Physics Nobel given for something that the lay-man can understand, it will probably have to be for some astounding breakthrough in our understanding of nature. Not for a breakthrough in about 20 people's understanding of nature as it seems nowadays. :P (just kidding!! :D)

Peace Award will be announced in a few hours. So, I was just browsing the Nobel Foundation Website and ran into an article about that old mystery - Why was Gandhi never awarded the Peace Nobel? Its an interesting read in its entirety. There are many things that I did not know. For example, Gandhi very likely didn't make it in 1947 because of a speech he made a few weeks before the Nobel committee's decision. Also, in 1948, he would very likely have got it had he not been assasinated before Nobel committee's meeting. I didn't know that no one was awarded the Peace Nobel in 1948 because there was "no suitable living candidate". For all I know, all of this might be common knowledge but I didn't know much of what is written in the article. Read it here. It'll be well worth the time spent.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


To me, very few things can surpass the sheer awe-inspiring nature of a total solar eclipse (TSE). Well, maybe I should say very few non-astronomical things. But then, most of those awesome things aren't as accessible and in-your-face as a TSE is - assuming that you have been at the right place at the right time.

I am sure there are things like watching a tornado pass by, or if you are lucky enough to be close to the eye of an enormous hurricane and survive. Things like this are awesome too but probably not as benign as a solar eclipse. There are superstitions which tend to make people feel a little discomfort when there's an eclipse, but if you get over that discomfort you can't help but be fascinated by the sheer beauty of it. AND feel extremely lucky to be given this opportunity to see a simple heavenly play of light and shadows. Lucky, because it is so incredibly unlikely to have a moon that is almost exactly the same apparent size as the sun. somewhat bigger (or somewhat closer) and the moon would've covered the corona to a much larger extent making the picture much less beautiful. A little smaller (or a little further away) and we would never have seen total solar eclipse, and even the best technology would probably never have made anyone realize just how beautiful a dark sun in a dark sky looks with only the stars and the sun's corona shining overhead. Not to forget the amazing "diamond ring" that we are treated to, which wouldn't be possible with a smaller/further moon.

An annular eclipse occured two days ago which inspired me to post this. APOD has an amazing high-resolution pic of this eclipse. See it here. But, again, TSE is TSE.. no annular eclipse can match it. sample the following pics... courtesy NASA and Luc Viatour via wikipedia.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What the hell is that???

Look at this! SUCH a weird surface. Goes to show you can ALWAYS expect the unexpected when observing new things in space. This little sponge-like thing is a moon of Saturn, called Hyperion. More power to NASA!

An interesting bit of trivia: Hyperion is probably the only moon in the solar system with a chaotic rotation, which means that its extremely difficult to predict when and from which direction the sun will rise next!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A short story about madness.

Smile on his face. Heart thumping in the chest. Dagger in his back
pocket. Long walk down the aisle.

"You may now kiss the bride", he heard. He kissed her. She felt his
dagger. He felt her gun.

Six men pushed them inside the room and locked it.

"Have a great married life!" chirped Mahendra.

Was tagged to write a story in less than 55 words by Ratna!! :) Thanx to BCCI, didn't have to think much!

Update: I guess its not really fair to expect everyone to know what this was about. Some of the readers don't follow indian cricket news at all. Some of them aren't even Indian! So, for all of them, this story was about this. And the title was a weak reference to this and this.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

A romantic comedy called "The Shining"!!

I have never been a great fan of the horror genre in general. But, as I like to say a lot, a good movie is a good movie regardless of the genre. I have seen only a handful of movie that have anything to do with horror, but among them The Shining shines the brightest. If there is any genre that has been plagued with cliches it has to be horror, and yet The Shining is as much a Stanley Kubrick movie as it is a horror movie. In fact probably more so. And a Kubrick movie is almost the exact opposite of anything that can be called cliched. One of the earliest movie adaptations of a Stephen King novel, it is still nothing like any other King adaptation. As I said, its more of a Kubrick movie than anything else.

Anyway, I am digressing, as always. The "romantic comedy" in the title refers to a trailer of The Shining I ran into online. Someone took the movie and cut it into a trailer presenting it as a sweet romantic-comedy/family-movie. Its hilarious! But if you haven't seen the movie, you probably won't enjoy it at all. Have a look at the trailer here if you have seen the movie.

Link via a blog on Roger Ebert's site.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Posting blues..

Amit is disgruntled about the lack of anything recent on this blog. And I don't blame him. A post every fortnight isn't really very exciting for anyone. So, why haven't I posted since that post about Crash?

Problem is, I felt very strongly about making a particular post about a week ago. I started the post, wrote about 4 lines but since then haven't had the time to finish it. Now, obviously I could've posted something else in the meanwhile. And there have been quite a few things that were practically begging for a post over last few days. But I'd have felt just a wee bit guilty while typing something else, leaving that one important and incomplete post alone. Guilt, however, should never be allowed to prevent one from doing what is right. So, here comes this post. Now, technically this shouldn't count because it is just an explanation for the absence of posts. Its like explaining to people why you have never been funny and then expecting them to laugh at the explanation. Or maybe not quite like it. Never mind. Point is, there's something muddled up about this post counting as a post but we'll count it as one nevertheless.

Good day then, people. Will try to be back with that post as and when I feel able and willing to type it in. Or will just put it on that highly populated yet spacious beyond belief invention - the backburner - and keep posting about other mundane stuff.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Paul Haggis makes magic!

I don't think I have ever written about my views on Million Dollar Baby, the movie that swept away four major oscars this year (best movie, directing, supporting actor, leading actress) and lost on three other categories for which it was nominated. I liked it a lot. It certainly was one of the best movies of last year. But it was sort of underwhelming too. I had expected something even better, but thats not the fault of the movie. Thats the fault of the huge media hype which made me expect probably the best movie of last ten years. It was good, its probably a classic that might be remembered for a long time to come. And yet, it STILL didn't quite reach the heights I was expecting after reading all about it. My reaction after I saw it for the first time was "is that it? its good.. but it really wasn't THAT great!"... after I saw it again, I liked it better and now I really do think it is great. Definitely better than most movies that get the sort of exposure that it got. I can still think of numerous movies that are just as good or better than MDB, but they tend not to get the backing of the studios and the sort of wide release that it got, specially if they belong to the genre it did. And that is a great thing in its own right. Anyway, that movie's screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, who has now himself directed another of his screenplay giving us a movie that simply blew me away. I saw Crash yesterday, and can't stop talking about it since then. This might also be because it wasn't hyped (or even publicized a lot) and so I was expecting something good, but not quite as amazing as it turned out to be. Which means, that maybe 2 years from now I'll rate Million Dollar Baby higher than Crash, but as of now I really think that Crash is one of the best movies I have seen recently. This year hasn't seen a lot of great movies, at least till now. So, this is probably not saying much, but for whatever its worth, I think that Crash is easily the best movie to have released this year so far. (Here "so far" is the key.. as most of the best movies of the year actually release from september to december, so we might see some truely brilliant movies from now on... But I suspect that Crash will stand on its own against most of these movies.. )

One reason why I probably liked the movie so much is because of the theme, which is something I have always felt strongly about. I find most forms of generalizations highly objectionable, even ridiculous. Things like "Pakistanis are like this", "Sardars are like this", "women are like this", "Bengalis are like this", "capricornians are like this" all make me very mad.. And racial discrimination is one of the most visible generalizations. Crash introduces us with many characters involved in incidents that show us racial prejudice, xenophobia and behavior based on generic stereotypes. If nothing else, the theme itself probably entails that the movie should be seen all over US, if not the world.

However, its not just the theme that makes it such a good movie. the stories are all running parallel and cross each other a la 21 Grams and Amores Perros (and Yuva in Hindi), and just like it happens in those movies, they all have the same undercurrent - in this case, prejudice and stereotyping. One of the key lines in the movie is "You think you know who you are? You have no idea." Which essentially tells you that all this is so much ingrained in us that even if we think we are above such things, we probably are not. There are times when our choices and behaviour gets affected by those ingrained mappings that we have inherited from our society, however illogical these mappings might sound to us. Importantly, it also shows the other side. The side that says that however strong our opinions might be about someone/something, there are times when our choices and actions are affected by the simple humanity and equality of all human lives. This latter part is what sounds a bit too simplistic to me. But then, maybe I am a bit too pessimistic/cynical about people. In any case, the movie's point is made much better because of these incidents that show us that our first impression of almost anyone, however justified it might seem initially, has nothing to do with what that person might acually be like, or what he/she might be capable of under certain conditions.

The movie probably needs to be called sad or depressing. But I personally didn't think it was. If anything, there are scenes in the movie that are quite liberating. It does not have light moments, but there are moments when you feel good about the world.

The impact of the movie is based on how much we feel for the characters. And any such movie has to stand on the shoulders of great acting. Crash literally explodes with the quality of acting almost every one of a huge number of actors show us. There is not one character that could have been played better. Perfect casting, absolutely perfect performances. Pity, it will not get many nominations because none of the characters has large enough screen time for that. This is also another movie that screams out loud for a "best acting by an ensemble of actors in a movie" award. There aren't many movies that will probably be able to stand the claim of Crash if any such award is instituted.

The movie is full of cleverly played and written sequences. Its replete with serendipity and chance plays a huge factor, but it didnt feel manipulative to me, which is normally a real danger for this genre. There are scenes which will simply take you to the edge and then suddenly relieve all the tension in a single moment. The whole theatre collectively gasped at some of these scenes. I have NEVER seen that before.

I remember that there was a test screening of Crash happening in Rochester, earlier this summer. I almost got hold of a ticket but then had to give it up. I was disappointed then, but not because I knew anything about the movie. It was just the thrill of watching a test screening. One of my friends then laughed and said "how can you be disappointed at missing the chance to see a movie which has Sandra Bullock in it?". And I, in my infinite wisdom, agreed to what he said. That will be a reminder for me about the dangers of prejudice!! :)

Miyazaki in Guardian!

Regular readers probably remember my posts about Hayao Miyazaki and his movies. Just found out that he has received this year's lifetime achievement award at the Venice Film Festival. Also, he has given an interview to The Guardian. Seems this is the first time in at least 10 years that he has consented to give an interview. Nothing too interesting for people who are not interested in him already, but a good read for fans if only because of the rareness of opportunity. Read the interview here.

Found the story, almost simultaneously, through Slashdot and Aint it Cool.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Movie Quote of the Day

A PG-rated quote from Annie Hall, that hilarious Woody Allen movie.

(Alvy, the protagonist, is confronting Annie, his girlfriend, about having an affair with a professor at her college)

Alvy Singer: Oh stop it, you're having an affair with your college
professor, that jerk that teaches that incredible crap course, Contemporary
Crisis in Western Man

Annie Hall: Existential Motifs in Russian Literature. You're
really close.

Alvy Singer: What's the difference? It's all mental masturbation.

Annie Hall: Oh, well, now we're finally getting to a subject you know
something about.

Alvy Singer: Hey, don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love.

Laugh Away... Transcript obtained from IMDb quotes page.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Warnie!! Warnie!!

There have probably been some great test series that I have not seen/followed that can claim to be the best test series ever, but since I seriously started following cricket over a decade ago, there has not been any that can run the current Ashes close. Ind-Aus 2001 comes close in terms of sheer drama but this Ashes is still better if only because it has already been more than 4-test matches old without a single dull day.

There have been so many great moments and great performances that its next to impossible to single out any one thing that made this Ashes such an incredible experience, but there have been players whose stature has gone way up in my opinion due to this series. Flintoff, surely, is one as he has almost single-handedly provided this England side the sort of aura that I could never imagine them to have. But head and shoulders above everyone else stands Shane Warne. With ball and, unexpectedly, with his bat he has wrested the initiative back from England on so many occasions over last month that I have stopped waiting for that off-day from Warne which one expects from every champion every once in a while. So much so that every Australian doomsday prediction in this series - and there have been more than a handful - has come with the qualifier: unless Warne has a say once more. And he has, on every such occasion.

The fifth test is here. First day of what is probably a match as significant as any world cup final, if not more. McGrath comes back to the team but doesn't make much of a difference. England are again off to a great start and what happens? Warne comes in and - first day pitch or not - takes five to stop England from completely running away with the match. As I write this England are 304/7, nothing to be ashamed off, but considering that they could just as easily have been 400+/2 had Warne decided to have an average day for any spinner on a first day pitch, it has been as significant a day for him as any over the series. What a player!!

And lest I forget. What a series!!! WHAT A SERIES!!!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Simplicity at its best!!

A friend of mine told me recently that my blog is becoming a bit too movie-heavy and that I should probably post about something other than movies once in a not-too-long while. Allowing even for the fact that she is not herself very much interested in movies, I think I agree with her basic point and will try to write something not very filmi in my next post. This post, however, will again be about movies. About one particular movie, in fact.

I remember once talking to a friend of mine about The Manchurian Candidate (the original version, not the new one), and saying that I was verrry impressed by the movie because I didn't expect a movie that old to have such a complex script and theme. I was under the impression that mainstream movie-makers of that era used to dabble mainly with scripts inspired by plays, resulting in movies that looked and felt like plays. Even though that itself doesn't mean that the script/theme needed to be simple, I had the impression that many of the movies at that time used to be like that. Movies that the common man would easily understand and be able to enjoy. I now have a better way of expressing precisely what I meant by all those things. I meant movies like the ones Frank Capra used to make.

I have seen three of Capra's movies: It Happened One Night, Its a Wonderful Life, and the movie I am going to talk about in this post, Mr Smith Goes to Washington. These and some of his other movies have made Capra so famous for making family-friendly light-hearted movies about simple people and high values (called American values by most people but I don't see what is so American about being nice and honest... people everywhere teach their kids these things.)

Mr Smith starts with some very kiddish scenes. So much so that they might seem a bit too childish to anyone watching them. Characters so cartoony and completely one dimensional that they are almost straight out of comic books. But one soon realizes that it is almost impossible to not fall in love with a hero who is just a simple guy believing in morals and values and not knowing anything about the practical (read amoral... corrupt) world out there. A hero so childlike in his naivete and innocence that you can't help but smile at every blunder he makes and simultaneously feel for him. On numerous occasions I remember smiling or laughing and yet thinking, "poor guy! he does not deserve this!".

The movie is about the head of the boy rangers of a state who is sent to washington as the new senator of his state after some hilarious and completely unbelievable chain of events land the Governor of the state at his home with the offer of senatorship (is that a real word?). The poor guy recited Lincoln and Jefferson from heart and is so taken by the glorious American history that his fascination with all the historic monuments in Washington ends up making everyone think that he is completely crazy and absolutely not suited to be a senator. Predictably, he tries to do his best and runs into a scam that has the backing of big political and media magnates including his own political idol. Clearly, one man can not stand up to such huge powers and the corrupt machinery has no difficulty at all in tearing the man apart. But, he DOES give a tremendous fight which forms the absolutely amazing climax of the movie.

On the whole the movie is sweet, thanx mainly to some great writing. A lot of dialogue is simply hilarious. Its the climax, however, that takes the movie from being an enjoyable, very-good movie to the level of a great movie. James Stewart established himself with the role of Mr. Smith and plays the role with such great charm that Jefferson Smith is easily one of the most loveable heroes ever in American cinema. The scenes in the Senate are so well done that its difficult to believe that we are watching just a set and some actors (some of the lines spoken in the senate, however, are so hilarious that you DO remember that you are watching a movie and not real Senate proceedings.. but thats obviously for the best as Senate proceedings probably don't make very entertaining movies..).

Watch the movie, if only for some hilarious moments, for the sweet little romance woven into the story and if not for anything else, for the rousing climax that is absolutely inspiring and yet highly entertaining. Great Stuff.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Its that time of the year...

Ok folks, summer is over. Winter is still slightly out of range. So, what makes me all excited? Its trailers like this! Forget about all the blockbusters that come from May to August and November-December, the real quality American cinema comes up mostly as movies that start slowly, releasing somewhere in october-november and picking up steam by word of mouth or great reviews till their appeal is irresistible by the time the Academy voters decide their choices for the oscars. Not to say that there haven't been movies targeted as major blockbusters that are great critical successes (LOTR) and won oscars (again.. ROTK/Titanic) but most of the nominations at least have been from these "small"/independent movies targeted specifically for oscar glory. Most of these movies' publicity campaigns are uncovered around this time of the year. The trailers of these movies are, if anything, even more important than the studio biggies because the target audience is small and quite discerning. So a not-so-good trailer can pretty much kill the movie even before it releases. Which really doesn't happen very often because the trailers ARE pretty good in almost all the cases. And that is why paying a visit to Apple trailers or your favorite trailers site around september is so exciting.

So, here comes the first such lets-target-some-oscar-nominations movie of the season that I have run into. George Clooney directs his second feature after the acclaimed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and calls it Good Night, and Good Luck. Look at the trailer yourself and decide how good you think this one might be. I personally LOVE the black and white visuals as also whatever little the trailer has to say. Looks like a journalism movie a la All the President's Men to me. If the performances and the screenplay is anything like that movie, it will be a great movie! The trailer seems to suggest that we won't be disappointed at least as far as the performances are concernced. Have a look at it here.

my mp3 player is saying...

"Rohit! Achchha achchha to tum Rohit ki behen ho! "

"No, actually main...."

"Don't be silly! Rohit aur main to bahut gehre dost hain... balki dost kya, main to kahoonga vo mere bhaai jaisa hai... just one dance?"

"I'm really sorry, but no."

"Agar main tumse ye kahoon ki main tumse pyaar karta hoon.. tab bhi naheen?"

PS: don't know what's happening? Then you really need another dose of DCH. Go and see it again! :)

How not to write a Constitution's Preamble.

I have made it a habit of going off-blog for long periods of time and then coming back with nothing more than interesting links from other people's blogs (ok, maybe only from Amit Verma's India Uncut).

So, here is a hilarious post inspired by the recently proposed Iraqi constitution's preamble. Not too long a post. Take some time off to read it. Link, obviously, via India Uncut.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Water Water Everywhere....

Well, not quite.. not yet anyway. Hopefully soon enough. Deepa Mehta of Fire and 1947-Earth fame (and Bollywood Hollywood not-so-fame) is about to release her much awaited Water pretty soon. Much awaited because of quite a few reasons. For those of you who just came back from a 10 year long hitchhiking across the galaxy, the movie got more than its fair share of press when Mehta tried to shoot it in Varanasi and some hindu fundamentalists took umbrage at supposedly blasphemous nature of the movie's script and ended up vandalizing the movie's sets and stopping the shooting. The movie would've been highly anticipated even if that controversy hadn't erupted simply because Earth and 1947-Earth were pretty good movies (too slow for me at that time, but there were some good things in both of them.. not least of them A R Rahman's music), and Water is their follow up in spirit. Also, any script okayed by Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das together had to have the potential of some great performances at the very least and a great story/script too, hopefully. If that wasn't enough, Rahman went ahead and said that he liked his work on the movie so much that this is probably his only score that he'd himself give 10/10. This, after he already had gems like Roja, Bombay, Thiruda Thiruda, Pudhiya Mugham, Duet, Iruvar, Rangeela, 1947-Earth, Dil Se and Taal in his kitty. That, I need not emphasize, WAS saying something. Specially as it could not have been just a publicity gimmick because he mentioned it in an interview much before the movie even started shooting. He really must've been happy with the songs. That Mehta waited so long till she could go ahead and shoot the movie (in Colombo to avoid controversies) and never parted with the songs must say something about her conviction about making the movie in the end and also her confidence in the music. Even though the cast had to be changed to Lisa Ray, John Abraham and Seema Biswas its the same movie with the same songs (even though ARR couldn't do the background score anymore). That itself is reason enough to cheer the appearance of the first trailer online.

I must say that I'll approach the music without high expectations. First of all, the songs will most likely not be commercially successful as they aren't meant for that. Like 1947-Earth, they'll probably be absolutely brilliant gems that only a few of us will get to hear. Doesn't matter. If the songs are anything like 1947-Earth, I'd probably be absolutely delighted over next few months. As for Rahman saying that 10/10 thing, much as it excites me, I'm trying my best not to think about it a lot. Because chances are that we have had glimpses of whatever inspiration he got at that stage in many period/parallel movies he has done since then. Lagaan, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Bose, Swades and Mangal Pandey were very similar in their demand for music and almost all of them had great music. I'd be lying if I say that I'm expecting Water to surpass these albums in quality, 10/10 or not. Whatever little of the songs I can hear in the trailer seems to suggest that Water will definitely be a great addition to ARR's oeuvre, but it might not be the first album people will write about in his biography. Doesn't matter. Great is still great even though its not as great as the greatest. :)

Download and see the trailer (in Real format) from this link (you might have to scroll down a little)...

Not the greatest trailer they could've prepared surely. Absolutely bland in terms of the dialogue they chose to keep in the trailer. Bad vocals overall. But the visuals are pretty good. And the music will obviously sound much better if you listen to full songs and not just a few seconds. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Zhang Ziyi!! Someone please tell the studio people not to release Memoirs of a Geisha, I don't know what I'll do if they let me anywhere near the theatres! After absorbing her stunning looks in House of Flying Daggers, here comes her first real hollywood movie (well, its an English language movie directed by Chicago's Rob Marshall and executive produced by Steven Spielberg... that should qualify it). Called Sayuri in Japan after the protagonist played by Ziyi, the movie's first trailer has hit the net and DOES SHE LOOK AMAZING!!!! Can't wait for the movie!!! It might not be a great movie in any other sense, but if the trailer is anything to go by, I probably won't notice anything else in the movie anyway. ammm.. on second thoughts, Gong Li is in there too, so probably I WILL notice her performance, if nothing else. Going by the movies that I have seen till now Gong Li is an amazing actress (but, again, even if Zhang Ziyi starts acting like Gong Li, people will still find it difficult to concentrate on her acting.. :) )

See the trailer at this link..

or just wait for the official release of the trailer on Apple or somewhere else.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Google: The Evil Edition

NYTimes has come up with an unintentionally hilarious article about Google. Based on misplaced envy, some silicon valley dudes throw mud on Google and lo and behold! we have the definitive evidence that Google is next Microsoft and that we need to save the world from its evil clutches! I tried to find out the reasons why it is being called evil. Here are some-

1. Sucked the best talent away from the market.
2. Caused an increase in the salary of skilled software engineers in the silicon valley.
3. Coming up with innovations too fast.
4. Diversifying into too many areas which doesn't leave others to do any work.

ammm... Is it just me or does it sound like Google's biggest problem is that it is simply too good? Most of the quotes there are analogous to "the neighboring shop is evil because it sells better goods at a better price and provides better customer service which takes away all the customers from other shops." I'm sorry but I really don't understand that line of thinking...

On a lighter note, how can a company that has a building number pi be evil! Come on people!!! :)

Link to the article via Slashdot.

Google finally does what everyone has been waiting for!

Google FINALLY does what everyone has been waiting for. It disappoints. After authoring a deluge of revolutionary (or at the very least, extremely good) products, we now have Google Talk - the much awaited IM application from Google. And it looks like something one of my friends might have written in his spare time. The interface is very uncluttered which can be a very good thing (and is probably one of the main reasons why Google started becoming as popular as it now is) but it is SO uncluttered that it doesn't seem to have ANYTHING at all!! I am devastated.... :(

The only hope is that they are planning to introduce a lot of features and this is the most bare beta version. But then, what was the rush to release it? I mean, come on!!! An IM without a smiley? maybe that's what I'd have enjoyed before I got used to yahoo messenger. there was a time I actually liked the bare-bones linux talk more than all the fancy yahoo messenger stuff. But not now. Specially with the often hilarious (and sometimes absolutely brilliant) yahoo audibles, I think yahoo is ages ahead of Google Talk.. and only I know how miserable I am feeling while saying that. I guess I am feeling even worse than normal because I have been using the new international audibles from yahoo for some days now and they are a riot!!! Any person understanding hindi can't help but love them. And now I get Google Talk.... sigh!

I'm sorry Google. You probably didn't realize that you have no right to dissappoint... please come up with features at the minimum rate of one per day or I'll have to consider commiting suicide. Or bomb Googleplex. Or shifting my loyalties.... Naah! I guess I'll just stick to commiting suicide.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

"Supers" selected...

ICC has just announced the final squads for the super series scheduled to take place in Australia this coming october. The squads had been the subject of much speculation over last few days (well, I was speculating at any rate...). The squads are:

super test squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid (vc), Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, Steve Harmison, Shoaib Akhtar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori.

ODI squad: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar (vc), Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Kevin Pietersen, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock (capt), Kumar Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Makhaya Ntini, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori.

pretty strong squads these. That is no surprise - these are world XI squads, after all. I am already salivating at the prospect of seeing so many individual battles over the super test. Not too excited about the ODIs though. I know that for many people the fact that there is no real "national" bias added to the contest will decrease the level of interest by a lot, I personally don't think that the level of play would be less than any normal test. Add the quality of players and it should be a cracker of a match. Not expecting anything as amazing as the current ashes, yet it'd be great.

As for the teams, I probably would've put Inzamam ahead of Sachin in the test squad for both form and fitness reasons. Also, Kumble ahead of Vettori. However, their records against Australia were probably what tilted the balance in favour of Sachin and Vettori. Not saying I personally wouldn't have wanted to see Sachin there. In fact I am very happy he is there. Gives him an opportunity to play another great innings! And what can be better than that! Just that Inzamam will probably be justified in feeling hard done by.

As for ODIs, Sehwag is probably there on the strength of his performances more than a year ago. Gayle would probably be better. Again, I'll love to see Sehwag bat (if he gets to bat, that is)! Just that Gayle should probably have been there purely going by performance.

Monday, August 22, 2005

More important than the stars!

In this age where most mainstream hollywood movies' fate is decided by the first 3 days' box-office collections, it is increasingly becoming clear that the publicity machinery is almost as important for a movie as the movie's director. What's more, as the title suggests, it is more important than the actors in many cases. A Russell Crowe can't carry a good movie like Cinderella Man to box-office success simply because the studio didn't bother to create the requisite buzz about the movie (so much so that some of my friends thought I was recommending a chick-flick to them when I was talking about Cinderella Man!) whereas Fantastic Four grosses 150 million dollars without having any established stars purely because its publicity fooled people into thinking that it is one of the big summer movies that they should not miss!

So, its not just the director but the person who cuts the teasers and the trailers for the movie who are the major influences behind most big movies. (Which makes my example of Cinderella Man slightly inconsistent. Its first trailer was very promising as I had posted long ago. I guess they just forgot to show the trailer anywhere!) If all this is true, then I guess Warner Bros can rest assured that Harry Potter - 4 has a great chance of being a blockbuster. Its teaser was ok-ish but the latest trailer is actually pretty exciting. I still think Cho Chang could've been better looking and the dragons and the merpeople could've been better visualized but overall its a pretty good trailer. That it matters little for movies like Star Wars and Harry Potter that have a huge built-in audience is another matter though. Still, I think little things like this can make the difference between a 250-million dollar blockbuster and a 350-million dollar monster-hit. Have a look at the trailer here..

Another post about other upcoming movies coming soon...