Friday, July 29, 2005

Sun, Spacestation and Shuttle

A modest tongue-twister of my own. Inspired by this awe-inspiring image from APOD. Read the description. For all the figures you memorize in your general knowledge or science class, its images like this that give you some sense of the immensity of all things astronomical. The Spacestation is JUST about 200 km away from us, its even closer than you neighboring city, most likely. and the Sun is about a million times further away.. and YET, look at the size of it!!

Update: Just noticed that the image link actually linked to the APOD homepage which obviously changed after that day. The link is now updated and points to the correct image.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ebert reviews The Terrorist

Just found a recent review of Santosh Sivan's The Terrorist by Roger Ebert. As Ebert is one of the few reviewers I read regularly, I thought I should post about this review. The Terrorist was a tad too slow for my taste but is replete with breathtakingly beautiful frames. A lot of Indian big budget movies now have world-class cinematography and Sivan is definitely one of the very best Indian cinematographers. No wonder his own movie looks so beautiful even though it was made at a dirt-cheap budget even by Indian standards.

Read Ebert's review here.

Amazing Rowling Interview!

Wanted to post about it last week itself, but couldn't. Mugglenet - our very own HP fansite - and The Leaky Couldron - another famous HP fansite - had been given the honor of having an exclusive interview with JKR on the day of HBP release. Mugglenet's Emerson and TLC's Melissa were personally invited by Rowling to come to UK and talk with her for about an hour. On her site, she says that she wanted to talk about the books with someone who actually knows the books inside out and not your normal journalists who are more interested in JKR herself and the HP phenomenon than the books themselves, and thats why she invited Emerson and Melissa. The interview transcript was posted on Mugglenet in three parts (as also a three-part report of Emerson's visit..) and is without doubt one of the best interviews I have EVER read. If you are a fan of the books and have already read HBP, then go directly to this, this and this link to read the three parts of the interview. You'll enjoy it completely, take my word for it.

JKR's website and her conduct and interviews related to HBP's release have really impressed me. She comes across as a very down-to-earth woman who has not let all the success change her at all. I know most celebrities like to give that impression, but there is either something very genuine about Rowling or she is just incredibly efficient at keeping that facade. I am a fan of HP books, but, increasingly, I am becoming a fan of Rowling more than her books and characters.

Bombay bedraggled..

I am sure most of you know about the unprecedented torrent in Mumbai that happened recently (and has hopefully stopped by now). Amit Verma has a posting about it that he made right after the rains which gives better insight about the situation there for all the non-mumbaiite visitors here. Read it here.

One of my friends also got stuck in his office close to Dadar. He walked home (close to IITB, in Powai) next morning after the rain stopped. Waded his way through flooded roads from Dadar to Vikroli. Took him 4 hours!!

something to read...

Great article this, on timesonline. About sporting excellence and celebrating it for its own sake, regardless of where our loyalties lie. Found the article via Prem's blog.

Monday, July 18, 2005

And now... the reviews...

Mugglenet has a page which lists some of the major media reviews of HBP that they could find links to and most of them are pretty positive. And most of the individual comments that I have seen on fan sites and newsgroups till now are overwhelmingly positive with a lot of people saying this is one of the best (or outright best) of the series. Some people might have a problem with the romance angle of the book which might be considered to be somewhat overdone. However, for people like me and Jeet who loved Barb's fan-fiction of the closing trilogy - which had much much more romance than this - should like this a lot.

For the list of media reviews, go to this page on mugglenet. Specifically, the Time review is here and the N Y Times review here. Beware of spoilers though. Most of these reviews talk about the plot and I'd have hated to have read them before reading the book myself.

The Day After - 2

More media coverage...

1) An interview/article in Time. Seems I was wrong about that NBC interview being the only interview given to an adult journalist. She says some things about HBP that might be slightly spoiler-ish only if you are a rabid fan and don't want to know even little innocuous details that have nothing to do with the major storyline. But, if you are one of them, you have probably already finished the book, so no worries!! :)

2) The eagerly awaited cub-reporter press conference transcript. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about: 70 young reporters (<16 years old I think) were chosen from all over the world to come to Edinburgh castle, read the sixth book over the weekend and attend an exclusive press conference where they could ask questions from Jo. Some pretty interesting question, and great answers. Beware, however, since most of these reporters had already finished the book (and were expected to have done so), some of the answers might be spoilers.. Though Jo has taken care not to spill any important details.

The Day After

Reading about all the media coverage of the HBP release. Initial reports say that 6.9 million books were sold during first 24 hours of release in US and 2 million in UK. Assuming an average price of about 18 USD per book, this amounts to more than 150 million dollars in a single day in just these two markets!!! Hollywood can't even dream of matching this anytime in foreseeable future!! :)

The only interview that JKR gave to any adult journalist regarding this book release was shown on NBC this saturday. How's this for rags-to-riches story?

"But Rowling hasn’t forgotten what is was like before she became synonymous with fame and fortune— less than a decade ago, when the only checks coming in to her house were welfare checks.

Rowling: Last year, when I was pregnant with Mackenzie, Neil and I were on the other side of Edinburgh. And we were very near the flat in which I finished writing "Philosopher’s Stone." I hadn’t been back there since I had left it and moved to a new house. And I said to Neil, “Let’s go around the corner, this is where I used to live.”

And when I clapped eyes on the place, I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying. For a moment, I was back where I had been all those years ago. It brought back this tidal wave of emotion. And I think it hit me so hard how life had changed. And in all respects, how wonderful it was.

And I’m standing there and I’m looking at this place and I’m thinking, it was almost like, I would see the ghost of myself standing in the window and I would be able to communicate to that person, “It’s all going to be okay. You know, you’re working so hard, and it will be okay. And it will be more than okay, it will be fabulous.” I will never forget how it felt to go back there."

Read the full transcript of the interview here.


Have been going over the whole story in my mind for some time now, and the aftertaste is absolutely great I must say! I have already started to think that the ending is a most brilliant one! At par with Prisoner of Azkaban if not even better. There are so many questions that suddenly pop up at the end that more than a twist that solves a lot of problems, this is a twist that sets up the last book as well as anyone could've hoped for. I know the last book will probably end up disappointing me simply because the expectations are now too high. I can't imagine the sort of pressure JKR will be under while writing that one. I bet she'll probably just sit on the draft for a long time after finishing it simply because it will be too difficult to convince herself that this is the best way to end the series.

Can't wait for 2007 (or, more likely 2008)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

A spoiler-less look at HBP

Have already finished My first reading of Half Blood Prince!! YAAAAY!!!! :)

I was about to go alone to buy the book but suddenly a lot of my friends started getting interested in coming along and buy it themselves!! So, 6 of us went and stood in what must've been a mile long queue in (and around) our neighbourhood Barnes and Nobel. Soon, however, someone told us that a nearby shop is also selling the books and there is absolutely no rush there. So, we got our copies in no time at all!! I was surprised to see the UK edition too! I didn't know that they are allowed to sell the UK edition in US. I don't know how Bloomsbury and Scholastic work the details out. I was under the impression that only Scholastic, the US publisher, would be allowed to sell the books here in US. Anyway, all of my friends got the UK edition. I, however, stuck to my US one...

Coming to the book. In short, I liked it. Didn't get disappointed at all (unlike Order of the Phoenix, which had a disappointing ending). This one is definitely better than books 4 and 5. I still think that 2 & 3 are the best though. The series has definitely changed from a children's book/mystery novel to more of an adventure/fantasy genre over last three books. There are still questions that one wants answers to but there is no real unexpected twist or mystery unlike 2 & 3. Another major difference is that the books are now structured much different from earlier books. Earlier, about first 60% of the book used to be fun and then suddenly something major used to change the book into an adventure/mystery kind of story for the last 40%. Now, however, the major story about Harry and Voldemort needs to keep going throughout the book starting from the first page. The fun part is getting much smaller and is interspersed with the fantasy/adventure part throughout. I guess JKR can't really help it because the story is now coming to a close and a lot of things are happening, so it needs to be this way. What this means though is that there is no real rise in the excitement as the book comes close to the end and no real "climactic punch" (a much more even pace of the narrative..). This is true for both book 5 and book 6. However, book 6 beats book 5 as far as ending is concerned. To me, book 5's ending was pretty lame considering the buildup. This time the ending was much much better. Or it might be simply because my expectations from the ending had gone down after book 5.

The book answers many of the questions that almost every fan wanted to know but there are quite a few left for the last book, which is how it should be. I regret losing Fred and George (as in, they aren't in school so one doesn't get to see them a lot... which has a HUUGE bearing on the fun value of the book on the whole), but Luna Lovegood has compensated a little for them. I didn't like her character much in book 5, but here she is much better, even though she's still just as crazy as she was then. For some reason, she just sounds a bit more understanding and mature here (and so, a bit more normal... beneath a layer of craziness..).

I don't think I can write much else without spoiling it for you..... A good book overall.... I am much more excited about book 7 now as compared to what I felt about book 6 just after reading book 5. That says it all...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Speculations, Speculations!

Have been doing "mail-chat" with vkvss since yesterday about various rumours and speculations regarding HBP.... and mostly it was about this book cover. Its the cover of the US Deluxe Edition and gives the most fodder for speculating out of all the covers released yet.

My theory (which is very likely wrong) is that Harry and Dumbledore are in someone's pensieve, probably Harry's own pensieve. The stocky guy is probably Frank (the gardener in the first chapter of Goblet of Fire) going towards The Riddle House in a replay of the first chapter of GoF. Harry and Dumbledore probably want to find something out so they are revisiting that memory.

What shoots this theory down is the knife in the tree trunk and the snake on the door of the house/hut. My theory can't explain them even though both seem pretty important. Also, as far as I remember, the Riddle house had at least two levels, this one doesn't seem to have (even though there are curious "eye-like" windows on top). However, the worst thing is that Harry seems to be clearly holding the branches around him which is not possible if he is inside a pensieve.. he should've looked more like an image and not really solid... :( Anyway, its fun to speculate.. :)

One thing is pretty clear though - Harry and Dumbledore are going to spend a lot of time together in this one doing very important stuff. Dumbledore will most likely take Harry under his wings teaching him advanced magic training him for The War. This lends some strength to the rumour that Dumbledore is going to die in this one, probably after making Harry ready for the days ahead. (this is JUST a rumour.. no strong evidence behind it.. so if he DOES end up dying, don't kill me for spoiling it for you... I have no idea who is going to die.. :) )

Meanwhile, JKR has answered the FAQ about communication between Order members on her site. Look at it here.

Harry Potter and the Well-Trained Postman

Mugglenet has this hilarious post about USPS (United States Postal Service) sending special preparation notice to its employees for the huge task of delivering Book 6 on this Saturday. Among other problems they anticipate excited kids waiting for the mail-delivery vehicle being a major one. I quote :

Delivery personnel should anticipate children may attempt to expedite delivery of this book on Saturday, July 16, 2005. In these instances, children will be anticipating the mail person, observe the mail delivery vehicle, approach the delivery vehicle, inquire if their book has arrived and, if so, requesting immediate receipt of their book.

The letter goes on to explain proper ways of carrying large quantities of the book, as well as how to handle excited kids.

The info was sent to Mugglenet by one Jeff.

No such problems for the guy delivering mail to my home on Saturday. I'll get mine at the midnight release event at my neighbourhood Barnes and Noble store!!! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Aish, Salman and everyone he knows....

Hindustan Times published a transcript of telephonic conversations between Aishwarya and Salman Khan in which Salman talks/boasts about his connections with Underworld. I am sure that those of you who are in India already know everything about this, this post is for the benefit of those who are relatively untouched with the instant-hype generated by media back home.

The story has generated quite a lot of heat, specially in Maharashtra assembly. Read the transcript here (but be warned... its rated R due to language issues... )

The Rising: Early Impressions

Just sent a mail to ARR fans group about early impressions of songs of The Rising.. pasting the content here...


As always, first hearing was disappointing but the songs have grown on me since. There is still a tinge of disappointment about the use of instrumental pieces from his earlier songs (Mudhalvan/Nayak, Kaadhalar Dhinam/Dil Hi Dil Mein etc), but overall the album is pretty good. Maybe not "hit" material, but very classy... Anyway, not many authentic period scores catch the fancy of general junta, so I guess we'll have to live with it... All of his period albums have been absolutely great yet only Lagaan became popular ( I personally rank 1947 Earth and TLOBS above Lagaan). I hope The Rising breaks the trend but I am afraid it might not.

Khair... the songs... this is not really a review.. just a few comments that come to my mind as I'm listening...

1/5/8) Mangal Mangal - 3 versions: Each of the versions is superb, though the first two don't sound very different from each other. And the third one (Aatma) starts slower but picks up the pace later on and sounds much like the earlier versions. I am not complaining though. Its a superb song! 3 is better than 1! :)

2) Main Vari Vari: Very well sung by Kavita and Reena. Basically a "mujra" song that grows on you. However, doesn't really break any new ground as far as mujra songs are concerned except the portions sung by Reena where the song really attains a little modern touch and sounds really different and interesting.

3) Holi Re: Starts with Aamir reciting a longish portion which is followed by a catchy tune sung by Udit and Madhushree mainly, joined by Srinivas and Chinmayee... sounded very ordinary initially but now I think it can turn out to be "Radha Kaise Na Jale" type popular song if promoted well and if the movie manages to be a hit. Like I said the mukhda tune is pretty catchy.. My only problem is that it is a bit too garba-ish for a Holi song.

4) Rasiya: Not your typical Richa Sharma song. Very different (and MUCH better) than what I had expected. Introduces another great ARR discovery - Bonnie Chakraborty (at least I haven't seen her name anywhere before). Its very "intoxicating" if you know what I mean... the rhythm probably reminds one of "Badan Dhuaan Dhuaan" and yet the song is probably closer to "Rang Hai" in its effect. Amazing instrumentation - understated throughout and yet its amazing how good it sounds with the song. And the Chorus!! WOW!!!... Great Song!!! Will not be very popular among masses but I am sure it'll be a favorite with a LOT of people who'll end up buying the album.

6) Takey Takey: ammm... very weird song on first hearing.. in fact, it still sounds a bit weird after all these hearing... clearly the most situational song of the album... but going by the lyrics, it will probably have a very interesting picturization... Must say that the song won't have worked on me had it been sung by ANYONE other than Sukhwinder... As of now, sukhwinder's irrepressible singing makes it good for me... still waiting for it to grow though...

7) Al Maddath Maula: The Qawwali we've been waiting for. I must say, "Zikr" did not go down very well with me. I still don't like it. But this one is amazing! When ARR sings "maulaaaa maulaa maulaa ho" it is pure paradise!! I'd probably have liked less of "Al Maddath Maula" chanting that goes on in between the lines. The mukhda tune once again is very catchy.. something that draws you in from the first hearing itself... "ae mere daataa.. ae mere maulaa"...
8.75/10 (would've been 9 if I could somehow take the "Al Maddath Maula" out... )

So... there you go... a very good album overall.. Must mention Javed Akhtar's lyrics which are great throughout...


Great Morning!!

First thing in the morning, found out the UK back cover "summary" for HBP on Bloomsbury site (via Mugglenet). No real spoilers, but excitement value nevertheless... :) see it here.

The excitement hadn't quite abated when I realized that The Rising's music must've released sometime during the night. And within 10 minutes the mp3s were on my laptop!! :) Sitting in the lab and listening to the songs for the first time, that too on my brand new sony earphones (as I had lost my previous ones a few weeks ago)... Bliss!!! :)

No opinions yet.... will probably write a teaser-review sometime after listening to the songs 3-4 times..

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

That time of day again....

I am sleepy.. very sleepy... sitting in the lab at 1217 hrs with a headache that reminds me that I haven't had quality sleep last night... Not because I didn't go to sleep on time, no. I switched the lights off and tried to sleep at my normal bed time (3:15 am) but couldn't sleep for some time because I had made the mistake of looking at rediff at 2 am and found out a little news item saying that National Awards have been declared and that Saif and Aish have won the top two actor awards! No explanations. Just a little 2-line article. I frantically tried to confirm the news (and find about other awards... specially music) from other news sites. Nothing. Slowly other sites started to catch up. But it was same everywhere. Same two lines. Indian Express at least had the manners to put a "details awaited" at the end of those two lines. Tired, I finally gave up at 3:15 but couldn't help not finding enough peace of mind to be able to sleep. Saif!!!! Which movie?? Ek Hasina Thi? But that was looong ago, it couldn't have been last year... Where else was he good enough to even deserve a filmfare nomination, forget National Award? Oh yes! Parineeta!! He was pretty good considering that its not quite the sort of character that he normally plays... But National Award?? In any case, Parineeta is probably a bit too recent to qualify for this year's awards... so which movie??

Ok, forget it.. What about Aish? Which movie? I haven't seen Chokher Bali but it was last year's movie in any case.. Raincoat? Yes, must've been that one. Haven't seen that either.. Who knows, maybe Rituparno Ghosh is SOOO good that he got a National Award worthy performance out of her.. good explanation, but I wasn't quite convinced having seen quite a few of her movies under not-too-shabby directors (Mani Ratnam and Sanjay Bhansali to name two..)

Anyway, I kept waking up every hour or so throughout the night having nightmares about Saif and Aish standing on a podium and Karan Johar asking them, "so what would you choose: National Award or Filmfare award?" and many people kneeling down in the background.. Some of them looked like Kamal Haasan, Mohanlal, Tabu and Revathi. Rahman was standing on another podium nearby looking at his 5 certificates with horror. (I know I know this is too JK Rowlingish... but I can't help it... HBP is about to release in two days' time.. what do you expect?)

Anyway, woke up in the morning and the first thing I did was check rediff for any possible retraction they might've wanted to do. Found this report. As you can see, no mention of Aish at all!! I assure you, it was on most sites last night and now nobody is talking about it!! So, what happened? I dunno... maybe they DID retract it after realizing that it could not be true.. Wonder why they didn't think so about Saif.. In fact, seems the jury were actually asked about the unexpected top award and Sudhir Mishra said something like "SRK's performance wasn't bad in Swades but Saif had a very different take on and did very well in a difficult role... also, we wanted to be different and give it to someone other than a serious/heavy role"... which is all very well, but it makes me think.. was Swades the only worthy rival to Saif's performance? Or was it simply that 99% of the reporters asking questions were from Bombay/Bollywood? I don't know.. maybe there was actually no really good performance in any movie in any language in India over last year... Or maybe Saif WAS so good in Hum Tum.. after all, I haven't even seen the movie (planning to seeing it as soon as possible now..). But surely, the fact that Saif "is getting better in his performances" shouldn't have much to do with his winning a National Award? It should be how he was as compared to others in that year... Khair... as I said, all this might just be because Saif turned in an extraordinary performance that I didn't know about (because everyone else seems to have ignored it too... till now.. )

Enough about these two... Other notable awards, as far as I am concerned, were Page 3 winning best picture (haven't seen that either.. have been looking for its DVD for a month now... can't seem to find it..), Buddhadeb Dasgupta winning best director for Swapner Din, Udit winning for "Yeh Taara Wo Taara" and Chitra taking her customary best female singer award (for Autograph this time). Raincoat got the best hindi film. AND there is absolutely no mention of best music award on any site that I could find!! Why???? The one award I am most interested in!!! Anyway, a reliable source tells me that Rahman hasn't got it. Seems it went to Vidyasagar. I wonder which movie... Must be that Telugu movie Swarabhishekam...

*sigh!* what can one do.. only wait for next year, I guess.. With The Rising releasing tomorrow and Rivermoon(Water) and Rang De Basanti hopefully coming soon, next one year shouldn't be too bad for us ARR fans..

Update: found the complete list on The Hindu's site. Vidyasagar did win for Swarabhishekam as I had thought. Prabhu Deva wins best choreography for Lakshya. Best Art Direction to Bose. Best Cinematography to Swades (WHAT??? Swades??? Cinematography??). Page 3 gets best Editing and Screenplay.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Queen of Central India!!

Vivek points to this fun site, where you can put in your date of birth and get a brief report of your past life... this is what it had to say about me...

I don't know how you feel about it, but you were female in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Central India around the year 1675.Your profession was that of a leader, major or captain.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:Timid, constrained, quiet person. You had creative talents, which waited until this life to be liberated. Sometimes your environment considered you strange.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:Your main task is to make the world more beautiful. Physical and spiritual deserts are just waiting for your touch. Keep smiling!

Ok... 1675, Central India, female, leader/major/captain... don't think I like the sound of it much.. and creative talents???? my main task is to make the world more beautiful?? I don't think I have ever met anyone less capable of doing that... come and visit my room sometime, you'll know.. :P

PS: so, ALL the kids born on the same date as I did, ALL over the world, were actually female leaders in central india around 1675!! very gender-unbiased we must've been, no? I can't think of that many Indian female leaders even today!! :)

Stupendous Scenes: Vol. 2

Continuing from the previous post, here is the rest of the list...

Castle in the Sky: The amazing scene at the end where the castle, bared down to the huge central tree, flies away into the sky... beautiful!! See below for a not-too-good frame from the scene...

House of Flying Daggers: The superbly choreographed "Echo Game" scene at the beginning... Zhang Ziyi looks heavenly... cinematography is brilliant.. the colors, the artwork, the music, everything gelled together leading to an amazing experience... Also, the sequence in the bamboo forest... wonderful!! A movie that had absolutely nothing and yet was such a treat for the senses that I can watch in a zillion times on the big screen...

*Sholay: The Thakur family massacre scene... It was lifted directly out of once upon a time in the west, but is more memorable for me... probably because I had already seen this scene a number of times before seeing the original... also, probably because the scene in the original is right at the beginning of the movie which means that one doesn't really feel too much for the victims... in Sholay, we know Thakur enough (and there is a five minute sequence that introduces us to each of the characters enough) to make the shock of their deaths that much more... er.. shocking... Also, the unforgettable "kitne aadmi the" scene... it has now become so cliched that one doesn't realize how good it actually was... Gabbar's feet moving from one rock to another... his belt moving alongside noisily... and his henchmen in the background with terror in their eyes... as impressive an introduction to a villain as I can think of...

*White: One of the three colors trilogy of Krzysztof Kieslowski, its last scene is amazing!! the woman looking from behing her window to the man... not angry, not crying... just smiling.. indicating that they are now equal... can't really explain the beauty of this scene without completely spoiling the movie for you...

Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb: The "nuclear orgasm" scene at the end... Pure Kubrick!!! Also, a lot of scenes in the war room were great!! specially the conversation with the Russian president... "Dmitri!!! ... Why do you think I', calling you? Just to say hello?...... OF COURSE Dmitri, I like to speak to you... OF COURSE I like to say hello... " Its a riot!!!

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro: Speaking of riot, am yet to find a scene like the mahabharata scene in this one... cracks up everyone I know every time they see it...

Alaipayuthey: the picturizations of Pachchai Nirame and Snehidhane... specially the black and blue parts of Pachchai Nirame... I bought the VHS and am very close to spoiling it because I see these songs over and over again whenever I am depressed... How can you see something so beautiful and remain depressed??

Throne of Blood: The shower of arrows.... again, Kurosawa does it like no one else... A story that has probably been adapted on screen a record number of times.. and yet, he manages to make something completely Kurosawa-esque out of it...

*Seven: The box arrives at the end - the seventh sin... this was probably the mother of all serial killer movies and is still probably the best among them... blood-curdling... also, the sloth scene... I still can't get the image out of my head...

*The Usual Suspects: Need I even say it? The scene that introduces us to Kaiser Soze.. one of the best endings for any movie....

Mr Smith Goes to Washington: The filibuster scene... A young James Stewart playing the role of an innocent american that he made his own over his amazing career... Man! What a blood rush!! A fitting end to the movie... something that raises the movie from being a very good movie to an absolute gem..

Amadeus: Salieri transcribing Mozart's composition of the requiem... I remember noticing myself breathing extremely quickly while watching this... how can you put an extended scene that shows a composer in the process of coming up with a composition at the end of a movie and make it gripping? Here, it works!! and how!!! stupendous stuff!!

*Schindler's List: Amon Goeth doing target practice from his balcony... whenever I've seen Ralph Fiennes since then, I can only think of Amon Goeth... (i hope that changes this november.. :) he is playing Voldemort in Goblet of Fire!!) And the Auschwitz shower scene... the dread and the relief that it engenders!!! Amazing movie! Great scene!!!

Thats it!! I am sure there are about a hundred more scenes that deserve to be on this list.. but the objective was not to make an exhaustive list of scenes (can anyone??), it was to just impromptu make a list and see which scenes come to the mind with 5 minutes or so... so.. here you go.....

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Sights, Sounds and Stupendous Scenes....

I know it is extremely difficult to choose "the best scenes ever" among all the movies that one has seen, mainly because there are an infinite number of them that make a huge impression when one is watching a movie but are very difficult to come to one's mind unless the movie itself is being thought about... Also, any such list is biased, more often than not, towards the movies that the listmaker has seen recently, again because they are more likely to be fresh in one's mind than a movie seen, say, 2 years ago. But, now that suddenly the thought of trying to remember some of the best/most memorable scenes that I have seen in movies has crossed my mind, it would be a tragedy if I don't create a post out of it... The idea, initially, was to list some of the scenes that keep coming back to you simply because of their "sights and sounds".. great cinematography and a haunting background score can make even a content-less scene stick to one's mind for ages.. However, once I started thinking about some of the scenes, I realized how difficult it is to decide the factors that make a scene memorable, at least for some of them... so, finally, the list is composed of scenes of all kinds - great to watch, great to hear, excellent writing, superb acting, epic scale, mindbending twist that takes the movie many notches above what it was till that point... one thing common is that each of them is unforgettable, at least for me... Again, these are just a few that come to mind without really thinking a lot or doing any research online (don't have time for that!! :( )... So, here we go (in no particular order)..

* indicates possible spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the movie.. read that line only if you have seen that movie or don't care about spoilers...

*The Godfather: The great horse's head and blood in bed scene... absolutely chilling!! Also, the hospital scene where Michael saves Vito... The book was never successful in generating the kind of tension that this one scene did in the movie...

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: the climax in the vast cemetery... unbelievable blood rush!! the scale, the music, everything about the scene is stuff of legends..

The Lord of the Rings: "YOU CANNOT PASS!!!" in first and second movies, the lighting of the beacons from Gondor to Rohan and the first scene of Minas Tirith in the last movie.. breathtakingly beautiful, both of them... Mount Doom and the battle of the pelennor fields intercut with each other with one common astounding score... brilliant!!! Also, Faramir's suicidal march with Pippin singing and Denethor dripping the red sauce/blood...

Once Upon a Time in America: The smile during the end credits... just one frame, but has the effect of possibly changing the whole movie's meaning... the whole sequence leading to Jennifer Connelly's introduction dance scene... haunting music, building up anticipation and seamlessly shifting to a flash back that takes your breath away... One of those movies where the soundtrack is so haunting that it has the effect of elevating the whole movie in one's memory... Saw this movie 3-4 months ago and since then there hasn't probably been a single day when the signature tune hasn't been playing at the back of my mind for hours on end... even though I haven't actually heard it anywhere since watching the movie... I should probably just go ahead and buy the soundtrack now...

Dersu Uzala: Dersu and Arseniev frantically struggling to keep themselves alive in the middle of a frozen marsh with a long, lonely and very likely lethally cold night coming close fast... I don't remember any other comparable sequence that is as long as this and as gripping even though its essentially one single thing being shown for a long time (except probably the HAL scene in 2001:A Space oddyssey... see below...) This is Kurosawa at his absolute best!!

*Kill Bill: House of Blue Leaves sequence... the most entertaining violence sequence that I can remember... cinematography and choreography.. and the soundtrack!!! WHAT a soundtrack!!!! the first scene of Vol. 1 and the beginning of starting credits... "Bang Bang" whoa!! That scene took my breath away!!! Bill's intro scene in Vol. 2, his flute and conversation with the Bride.. "I'll try my best to be sweet!".... the truth serum scene... and the final "five point palm heart exploding" scene... "you look ready"!! :)

Pulp Fiction: The scene in the kid's room... "I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?" and the whole Ezekiel 25:17 thing... Hilarious!!!

*Satya:The whole sequence from Chandu's encounter upto assasination of Amod Shukla... to me as close to perfect cinema as any Indian movie has ever gone... then other obvious candidates like Bhau's election victory celebration... shocking!!! and Satya killing Jagga... "karna hai.. to karna hai".. and the sequence just after the initial killing of the movie producer (or director?).... and "mumbai ka king kaun??" thing... in fact the whole f-ing movie!!! :)

Iruvar: Mohanlal rehearses with the sword at the beginning of the shooting of his first big movie... stupendous background score.. and wonderful acting.. the whole thing giving you a sense of power.. you know this is a screen god in making... he is destined for huge things... Unnodu Naan picturization... Prakash Raj getting attacked... Mohanlal realizing the power of his popularity and waving to his followers from Prakash Raj's house's roof... the background score giving all these scenes that extra power... This has to be not just Rahman's most underappreciated work but actually very likely his BEST work in background score, period... maybe Dil Se comes close, but Iruvar gives the score a huge edge because the movie itself is superior to Dil Se by a huge margin...

*2001: A Space Odyssey: The dumbing down of HAL... a sloooooow, loooong scene that is all the more effective because of it... a classic!!! And the legendary bone-to-spacestation-transition scene....

The Shining: "Heeeeere's Johnny"... possibly the most chilling scene in what is probably the best horror movie ever made... Jack Nicholson can do almost anything!! Also, the blood from the elevator scene... shows you how easy it is to inspire dread without really showing much... in horror, its what is NOT shown that works...

ok... still about 11-12 more movies and their scenes in the list... better break the whole thing in two volumes, a la Kill Bill. :) so... the rest in Vol. 2... coming soon, most likely within 24 hours.. :)

Friday, July 08, 2005

just a week!!

I have no idea how I am going to spend this week.. I am already more than halfway through Order of the Phoenix in preparation for the Book 6 release next week... what else can one do? (besides work, of course... ). Why on earth did they choose July 16 and not July 9 for the release? It would've been just as good a day... :(

Anyway, here are some speculations/predictions etc about the book by the editorial team of mugglenet. I don't think any of this should be a spoiler as all they have done is write their own opinions about where the story might go, who might die, what romantic angle might be their etc.. Also, some of them have a contradictory opinion to others, which makes it a nice and confusing piece to read if you ever find some time that you have nothing else to do in.

Also, the US-edition back-cover photo was released recently (today, i think..). Unless you don't want to know ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING about the book, you can see it here, courtesy mugglenet... Its not really a spoiler but is definitely interesting...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

HTML blues...

I have no idea how HTML works.. I have never worked with it really.. only played around with the template of my blog, tinkered some numbers/options here and there and tried to decipher what a particular number/option does... All of which is fine as long as blogger acts as it should - like a normal application which doesn't suddenly change its output based on its mood - but it all becomes highly irritating when one fine day suddenly you find that your sidebar has decided to take full control of the screen, pushing your posts way down where no one really ventures...

Anyway, I didn't have enough time to try and find the problem (or just patch it up temporarily) till today.. Problem is, even having enough time (sort of...) proved to be of no help... I have been banging my head for the last hour.. tried various things to try and get my sidebar to behave like a normal sidebar but it refuses to listen... As you can see, I have been able to do a reasonable patch-up job which has pushed the sidebar way to the right, making it invisible to anyone who doesn't notice that there's a scrollbar at the bottom of the screen or chooses not to use the scrollbar even after noticing it... This, I must say, is not what I'd like my blog to look like... (I'd like to have my favorite links right there in your face, thank you very much..)

So, is there anyone out there who can help me with this?

Space is your laboratory..

Its amazing that the amount of hype that the recent Deep Impact mission generated is not even 10% of the hype generated by venus transit '2004. To me, its almost surreal to think that we have reached a stage where we can device such simple experiments and carry them out with what used to be called a heavenly body till recently. After all, there's not much difference in either the objectives or the strategy of this impact experiment or a simple material science lab impact experiment that studies the properties of the substance targeted. Forget all the fancy spectrophotometric studies sitting under the atmosphere (or slightly above it, circling the Earth), we can now just take a cannon, go near a comet and hit it hard and find out what really is it made of (and how exactly is it made of whatever it is made of). Till a few years ago, I used to be so excited whenever a naked-eye comet used to appear in the sky with its (more often than not) long tail. I'll probably still be excited when I get to see a particularly bright comet among the stars again, but it will be a different kind of excitement.. It'll be as if I have been there.. It won't be like looking at Aishwarya Rai anymore.. it will be like meeting an old friend after a long time... I KNOW what it is.. I have seen it in one of its special moments!!!

(Photo courtesy: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Thoughts galore...

There are so many things that I want to post about that I am sure no more than 10% of them will get posted in the final analysis. And that too over a long period of time.

Anyway, to start lets just talk about that favorite topic of mine - movies! Have seen Bunty aur Babli, The Negotiator, Kingdom of Heaven, The Dreamers, War of the Worlds, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and two more movies that I can't remember now, since coming back from India. Its amazing to see such a huge list because I was under the impression that I have been going through an unusual drought of movies since going to India. Only yesterday I was telling one of my friends that I haven't seen any movie since coming from India and intend to see quite a few over this weekend (and started the intended movie-marathon with WotW and Hitchhiker's Guide yesterday). And now I realize that I have actually seen 8 movies since June 14! Not quite upto the high standard I have set for myself, but not close to being a drought either!

Khair... saw War of the Worlds yesterday, even though the reviews aren't as great as I had expected. So, I was getting tempted to postpone it till it comes to the dollar theatre (sometime around september/october) but couldn't resist going for it in the end. And I didn't regret it. Its not one of Spielberg's better movies but is quite good nevertheless. Better than Jurassic Park surely, which seemed very tame when I caught a few glimpses of it on TV last week.

I had read the story when I was at IIT and found it quite lacking in imagination. I understand that is because we are now capable of imagining much ahead than anyone in late 1800's when the book was written and can see why it must've been a HUGE inspiration to most sci-fi writers that came after that, but now that we know so much more about everything, reading H. G. Wells' description of aliens really does put one off. That Spielberg decided to remain faithful to the author's vision in this respect is one of the weaknesses of the movie for me. I understand that ANY visualization of an alien is unlikely to be satisfying , yet, to see aliens that look little more than deformed versions of human beings with a little cross-over from two or three other terrestrial species is extremely off-putting for me. (something I like about 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact - they keep the physical form of the aliens away from the scene. They don't presume any particular form). It works in a charming movie like E.T. because that was less sci-fi and more a fantasy story for children but for a serious science fiction story/movie its not the best thing.

Also, I didn't like the Tim Robbins sidetrack at all. At the end of that sequence, one can see what Spielberg was trying to achieve by that, but it wasn't very well done.

So, that was what wasn't good about the movie. But there were a lot of good things too that made the movie definitely worth watching. And Dakota Fanning is probably the best among those things. I had read many times about how she is mature-to-the-point-of-being-spooky but after seeing her in this movie, I know what all those reviewers and interviewers meant. If she is anything like this in real life, she really must be spooky. As many people say, its almost as if she is a 40-50 year old lady in a 11 year-old's body. Or, as Spielberg (probably) said, its like she has seen all this many times before. The movie is a lot closer to being a horror movie than a sci-fi thriller and Dakota Fanning's performance is a huge plus in giving the movie that edge. Tom Cruise is pretty good in his role too and the father-children aspect of the movie is actually the best part. Spielberg got it correct in making THAT (and not the annihilation of the planet by the aliens) as the central theme of the movie. The movie concentrates more on the situation the protagonists find themselves in (the neighborhood highway being blown apart, the church in the nearby block collapsing, local cops trying their best to do something etc) rather than showing a famous monument or the president of US. The latter, as most sci-fi, apocalypse and disaster movies show, inspire awe but its the former that really makes one shudder.

See it whenever you can. Its not a movie you will talk about a lot 3-4 years from now, its not one of Spielberg's best, but its worth a watch nevertheless.