Playlist

  • Eyes on Fire - Blue Foundation
  • Rooster - Alice in Chains
  • Jigsaw Falling into Place - Radiohead
  • Quien Fuera - Silvio Rodriguez
  • La Tortura - Shakira

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Longevity is a big hardship in continuous hell

The topic of interest today happens to be the chinese cop thriller Infernal Affairs. I've been having some pretty good luck with movies of late. A high percentage of movies I've watched in the last week or so have been good to excellent.

Infernal Affairs takes the story of the undercover cop and pushes the envelope. The movie reminded me of face/off because of the role reversal after the identity switch. That one was a pretty cool action movie directed by John Woo. This one is a lot more cerebral. It takes the story beyond what is predictable - the showdown between good and evil. It enters the psyche of two sharp individuals committed to their cause and who have penetrated the highest levels of their respective targets. Ten years is a long time to be doing something diametrically opposite to one's role in real life and remain unaffected. Though we see this dilemma and it's ultimate manifestation in only one of the characters, there is still enough payoff.

The movie breezes through the introductory scenes and plunks us down into the middle of the main plot almost immediately. Needless to say, the screenplay is very tight and well thought out. The direction is stylish and maintains the suspense level in pivotal scenes with clever editing and close up shots of the characters involved. A lot is conveyed through the emotions (or the lack thereof) shown by the two moles and their internal conflict. This is not an action movie and one would be disappointed if they expect high voltage action sequences. In summary, another great movie from the hong-kong masters.

As for the blog title, I needed something interesting so I chose one of the lines at the end of the movie. I interpret it as a reference to the continuous suffering that the survivor will carry within himself for the rest of his life.

eot.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

open-ended

o·pen-end·ed
adj.
  1. Not restrained by definite limits, restrictions, or structure.
I saw Donnie Darko today. I came across this title many times before but I finally decided to pick it up. I'm glad I saw it. Fortunately or unfortunately though, I can't make much sense of the ending. There's no closure. The movie builds up beautifully, weaving uneasiness into every scene, creating hair-raising (literally) tension most of the time. Add a bit of dry humor here and there and it makes for a very entertaining movie. I liked Drew Barrymore in the movie - specially when she asks the new girl in class to sit next to the guy she finds cutest and actually asks one of the other girls in class to get up when the choice is made :-). There are a lot of characters thrown in, all with enough promise to entice us into thinking the movie will offer an explanation in the end but that wasn't the case.

But why should it? I mean, it made more sense than '2001 - A space odyssey' anyway. For that matter, it made as much sense as 'Pulp Fiction' or 'The Usual Suspects' ( well .. almost but that's not the point). There were a million other things to admire in those movies and I found enough reasons to like this one. It's one of those movies where things seem to be converging as the movie progresses but instead completely diverge as we near the end - 'Mullholland Drive' a case in point. I guess part of such movies' allure is it's open-ended nature. And don't even begin to think that the Matrix II & III fall into a similar category. I actually got a headache when the 'Architect' starts to speak in Matrix II.

Plus, I discovered a great new artist. Gary Jules's 'Mad World' is a sublime song - falling in the 'Sad Lisa', 'Wise Up' mold.

Oh and I can't let this one go - 'Chunking Express' is a similarly intriguing movie - the second half particularly. The two characters in the second story are the most unique ones I've ever come across on-screen. The relationship between the two characters surprises, frustrates, amuses and ultimately conquers you. I mean what can you say about a girl who confidently lies to her uncle (for whom she works) that she can't come to work because it's raining heavily - she lives a coupla blocks away; and the guy who comes home everyday to a freshly redecorated house, doesn't notice it, and talks to a towel he feels is not getting enough attention. Magic - it has to be seen really.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Girl Power

I saw two very good movies today, 'Vanity Fair' and 'Crazy/Beautiful'. Both featured terrific performances by the female leads - Reese Witherspoon and Kirsten Dunst. IMO very few actresses can articulate as well as Ms Witherspoon silently. I saw her first in 'Legally Blond' and I din't really care much for her or the movie - it was mildly entertaining. Later on, I chanced upon 'The Man in the Moon' and as a thirteen year-old she blew me away with her performance. I rate that among the finest performances by any actress ever. I saw Ms Dunst in a few movies including the Spiderman movies, Bring it on, Wimbeldon and The Cat's Meow and found her more of a looker than anything else. In 'Crazy/Beautiful', she gives a very hard-edged performance as a troubled teenager - she is frustratingly out of control in her actions yet manages to garner sympathy for her part. The movie has a very restive feel to it, looks sleek, contains several good performances and doesn't compromise on the film's material to make it more palatable for a general audience. Still it doesn't (thankfully) approach the bleakness of 'Thirteen' - I preferred the optimistic ending in Crazy/Beautiful.

While I'm on the subject, I might as well mention two other imperious (in every sense of the word) performances by female leads. One was by the legendary Bhanumathi in the telugu movie 'Palanati Yuddham' and the other by Judy Davis in Woody Allens 'Husbands and Wives'. In both instances, the women have such overpowering characters - we cannot but feel sorry for the male characters in both movies.

In 'Palanati Yuddham', Rajanala stands at the receiving end of such biting sarcasm, I clapped when I first saw the movie. The sheer force of Bhanumati's personality reduced Rajanala to a caricature in several scenes. One scene in particular is vivid in my memory - She hands Rajanala (playing the King's brother trying to usurp the throne) the Bhagavadgita. He gets offended and accuses her of mocking him as he considers the act a suggestion to take up sanyasam (or sainthood). She smiles knowingly - demonstrating that she expected his pea-sized mental apparatus to come to exactly that conclusion - and then in a brilliantly sinister interpretation of the Mahabharata reminds him of how Arjuna goes after the throne hinting that he draw lessons from that. Her body langauge, expression and intonations are spot on - theatrical acting at it's best. Simply Unforgettable!

Judy Davis does a more subtle job of destroying Liam Neeson's character in the latter part of the movie by slowly chipping away at his self-esteem. She is more overt in her domination in an earlier part of the movie when she commands one of her colleagues to take her out to the theatre right after being informed of an impending divorce on phone. The unfortunate man actually sits thru the conversation during which she breaths fiery invective at her husband, then takes a moment or two to collect herself and calmly announces to her hapless colleague that she is ready to leave for the show. When the man hesitates, suggesting that it might not be the best time to go out, she spews forth yet another burst of pure hatred for the male race. Frightening and hilarious .. phew!!!

Movie Soundtracks

Movie Soundtracks - what would I do without them. They are the best source of music by relatively new and unknown sources. There are several instances when I'd go crazy after listening to the faint background score in a movie. Before google and napster, I had a hell of a time fighting the urge to find out the name/artist of the song in question. Now, I just google a few words that I manage to catch and tada, I have the song. Another great source is amazon. You can listen to the samples to find the song that haunts you.

I find it very interesting how the visual association can have such a profound affect one one's perception. Take for instance Kill Bill Vol I. The fight sequences take on a life of their own when accompanied by the super-slick background score. The songs by themselves don't sound half as impressive but the combination is unbeatable.

Here's a list of some of my favorite soundtracks:
Amadeus, Kill Bill Vol I & II, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, High Fidelity, Chicago, Big Lebowski, Oh Brother, Where art thou, Mr. Holland's Opus, Deserado, Ocean's 12, Out of Sight, Say Anything, A Life Less Ordinary, I know what you did last summer, Garden State, Dazed and Confused, Faculty, Lock Stock and Two smoking barrells, Snatch, Master and Commander, Pleasantville.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Nowhere in Afrika

I just finished seeing 'Nowhere in Afrika'. It's one of the best movies I've seen in a while - and really got me thinking. We are introduced to the main characters as normal well-to-do citizens of a western country with all the comforts and protection that society affords them. A very telling dialogue that appears later on in the movie refers to them as 'playing their parts'. However, when circumstances force them to flee their country and face unthinkable hardships, their attitudes change, unpleasant characteristics and prejudices bubble to the surface. The film scores spectacularly in the manner it depicts how they eventually grow to be more accepting of each other and develop compassion - towards each other and their fellow human beings. They ultimately come to realize the meaning of love and understanding while still pursuing what one believes is important in life.

That really made me think today about Adversity - and what it can to you. It can shape your life in ways you never dreamed possible. I've always thought of myself to be very fortunate because of the relative ease with which I've pulled through life so far. I've been riding this blanket of protection that has always kept me afloat in most situations where I could have stumbled. But do I know what's really inside me? Do I have the 'right stuff'? The more I think about it - the more I realize - 'I have no freaking idea'. Things that mean the most to me change by the month - the only constant being my family. It was teaching yesterday, photography and movies today, business and God knows what after that. Am I really that fortunate?

I always pray to God regularly and dutifully to let things play out easy for me. I crave smooth sailing for me and all the things and people for whom I'm directly or indirectly responsible. I'm afraid of taking risks - afraid of the the consequences - the uncertainty - I guess most of all I suspect my fortitude in the face of adversity. Every once in a while I do ask ofHim - 'What is my true calling?' 'You must have had a reason for putting me on earth! What is it?' but for the most part I'm quite content going to bed every day knowing my sister is doing well - soon to be getting married - Mom and Dad are happy and living in relative peace at home and the knowledge that I can get to the office tomorrow morning without all hell breaking loose around me.

I don't know how I'll react when I'm pushed outside this comfort zone. Will I put up a brave front in the face of adversity? I sure hope I do and I do think I can .. and now the million dollar question - Will I ask God to put me in that state where I'm bound to struggle? It sure won't be my prayer before I crash tonight. Somewhere around the corner, life's vissicitudes are awaiting me. I too will confront my biggest devils and emerge a different person - preferably somebody who won't need to ask these questions!

Like Walter in the movie, I'm only 'playing my part' so far. I want to know what lies underneath ..

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

D70 or Rebel XT

I'm torn between which of these two Digital SLRs I should buy. I was leaning towards Rebel XT till I met Sanjeev a week back. The D70 has been around for more than a year is quite well respected. I guess I'll have to go to the store and actually try them out and see how it feels in the hand. My fear about taking the D70 is that Nikon will come out with a newer model in a couple of months. Then I'll end up feeling crappy about my purchase.

However, for my purposes both these cameras seem to be good enough. I should decide in a couple of weeks from now.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I discovered Radiohead ..

I'm listening to 'OK Computer' by Radiohead right now and it's one of those rare albums where each track seems to hit home. Usually it takes a few listens for the album to kick in but not so in the case of Radiohead. There is something about certain albums where you find it difficult to pick up a particular track as your favorite. Beck's 'Sea Change' is one, AIC 'Unplugged' (though technically, it's a compilation), and the beatles 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver'. Don't get me wrong, there are great great albums like 'Led Zep 4', 'Aqualung', 'The Wall', 'Back in Black' but I can easily pick out my favorite tracks from among them. It's an impossible job with albums like 'OK Computer'. I frequently put together compilations for friends who aren't music fanatics and it's easy to throw in 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Comfortably Numb', 'Locomotive Breath' or 'Hell's Bells' but if someone asked me about Radiohead I'd just ask them to listen to the whole damn album - I cannot pick a standout track.

Anyways, the following is my current music hotlist in no particular order:
Mambo Italiano - Rosemary Clooney, Vanilla Sky - Paul McCartney, Sad Lisa - Cat Stevens, New Slang - The Shins, 10000 Lightyears, Rasputin - BoneyM, Am I ever gonna change - Extreme, Medication - Garbage, Dragonstea Din Tei - OZone, Bang Bang - Nancy Sinatra, Float On - Modest House, My Own Prison (Acoustic) - Creed, Erase and Rewind - Cardigans, L'Appuntamento - Ornella Vanoni, Across the Universe - Fiona Apple, Sunny Came Home - Shawn Colvin, Familiar - Incubus and DJ Greyboy, Perhaps - Doris Day, Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz, Sour Times - Portishead