Thursday, March 30, 2006

Inside Man's Chaiyya Chaiyya sandwich

Now that's what I call music!

Spike Lee's bank robbery movie Inside Man grabs your attention right from frame 1 (in fact, right from the time the Universal Studio's logo comes on) by playing A.R. Rahman's Chaiyya Chaiyya (from Dil Se) over its
opening credits! Sadly, this is not complemented by Clive Owen and Jodie Foster dancing on top of a train, though no one's complaining especially since the song is played once again for the closing credits! Even better is the fact that in both cases the song is played in full with only some minor remixing thrown in.

The movie itself is full of surprises like that, not generated by the plot but rather with sharp and incredibly witty exchanges of dialogue between the major characters or the Players, as Lee likes to call them. It is quite reminiscent of Dog Day Afternoon in that this is one heist movie that should be classified as character-driven, rather than plot-driven which, while we are it, is riddled with holes. No single person in this story is a one-dimensional cardboard cutout, a plot-device, the typical Hollywood stereotype; each one seems real, with his own backstory and personality, all of it captured very efficiently in the dialogue. This is one special movie!


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Monday, March 20, 2006

V for Terrorism? Not really!

The debate over V for Vendetta

After watching V for Vendetta over the weekend, I was quite surprised to realize that the majority of reviews I'd read about the movie which criticized it for glorifying terrorism were quite misleading. Let me explain:

Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from The Matrix) stars as the enigmatic character known only as V in this film adaptation of a 1980s comic book series that was written to protest the excesses of the Thatcher administration in Britain. It is set in a futuristic Britain where a totalitarian government is in power led by the ruthless (and seriously scary) Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt) who seems to be a composite of Hitler, Stalin, Dubya and Big Brother. Into this society, where freedom of speech is curtailed and secretive police wield unimaginable power, steps V who kick-starts his revolution by blowing up the Old Bailey one night. He then gives an ultimatum to the government and the people that in exactly one year's time he will be blowing up the British Parliament house.

The key words here are "night" and "ultimatum". Though V's acts can be classified as terrorism, the fact is no innocent person is killed as a result of his actions. By blowing up the Bailey at night and pre-warning the public about his intentions for the Parliament, he obviously ensures that no one will be inside those buildings when they explode. It is, hence, disingenuous to call him a terrorist because in the present world order a terrorist is one who deliberately kills innocent people. V is not one of them and the movie does not glorify terrorism!

Funnily enough, a few hours after I caught V in the theater, I happened to watch Gandhi, Richard Attenborough's 1982 masterpiece, on DVD! Two movies that are so different from each other yet share the common theme of attaining freedom from a suppressive British government. And among the two, V's approach seems to have yielded better results as he manages to unite the people in a (seemingly) successful revolution in the short period of one year. Gandhi? Well, it took a while, didn't it? :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"V for Vendetta" was entertaining, but it glaringly lacked the elements of a "good" movie. As I had discussed with one of my friends, it is an English version of an Amitabh/Rajni's movie where the hero is cloyingly glorified. And it does send out an incendiary message and as my friend puts it, its comtemporary insinuations were blasphemous, to say the least.

But again, you would probably not feel that the 2.3 hours were wasted, but would come out feeling nothing great about the movie, but still would have managed to kill (murder?) the 2.3 hours (did you notice the movie wee bit too long?).


9:07 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

Well, I thought the movie was good fun, not great and I didn't think V was "cloyingly glorified" except maybe in the very last scene. Until then, he has a reasonably tough job trying to win over Evey who is initially reluctant to help.

There is also the fact that this is a comic book-based world. So everything is exaggerated, including the level of repression that the people undergo and it is made to appear that V is the only one opposing the govt. Plus, he is a kind of superhero so it is not entirely surprising that things are heavily stacked in his favor

2:47 PM  

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Between a Rock and a Crystal

Jon Stewart's performance as Oscar host

Well, what about the Oscars this time, huh? Jon Stewart, the one reason I watched the Oscars for this time, was, I felt, slightly uneven and seemed unnaturally subdued. Some of his bits like the attack ads ("Dames For Truth!" Hilarious!) and his DIck Cheney - Bjork joke were killers but others like his initial intro sequence and the whole Tom-Hanks-getting-attacked-by-orchestra-for-long-speech were quite poorly done. And doling out personal attacks on movie stars (the Baldwin brothers crack and the Scientology thing) are certainly not his style. He himself appeared quite embarassed for making those jokes!

The other metric of an Oscar host's performance is his or her ability to ad-lib. In this, Stewart ranked way ahead of Chris Rock last year for keeping his on-the-spot jokes tasteful and without anything deroogatory (like Rock belitting Jude Law and Colin Farrell). In this, he was also better than Steve Martin who in 2002 (I think) kept picking on Russell Crowe for some reason. But the master of ad-libbing is certainly Billy Crystal. I still remember him in 2004 the year when "Return of the King" kept winning every award. "It's official," he intoned, "there is no one left in New Zealand to be thanked!", followed by, "People are moving to New Zealand just to be thanked!" Priceless stuff!

The award winners themselves, no surprises there except the big one, of course. Crash winning Best Picture was always on the cards I felt. Roger Ebert predicted just that and he's usually good at the guessing game (Last year, in his review for Million Dollar Baby he stated with utmost conviction that it would win the Oscar. Uncanny!) I personally thought that while Crash was an extremely powerful movie, the plot was essentially an algorithm that kept repeating over and over again. Syriana was better with its interweaving of story lines and by not being over-simplistic it played out like an adult version of Crash. Pity it didn't even get nominated! Anyway, it was worth Crash winning just to see the expression on Jack Nicholson's face when he read it out. "Whoa!" Hilarious!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Jon Stewart's performance was very subdued. He was not his usual tart-self. He was very conscious and, of course, he cannot pick on somebody in a show of such grandeur, which is what he is best at.

I think "Crash" won the Oscar just to continue the unbroken tradition of a "surprise" element. I am not putting it down as a movie, but I thought "Brokeback Mountain" was a shade better.

It was interesting to note that this year's Oscars viewership was the lowest in the past decade. Another interesting article on Jon Stewart's performance.

-- Chithi

4:15 PM  
Blogger Santosh Sankar said...

I think the reason for low viewership was the fact that none of the Best Picture nominees were big budget blockbusters like LOTR. I also think there was no one movie this year that captured the imagination of the public to drive them to root for it at the Oscars.

And what are you up to, chithi? I'll give you a call (on your new cell phone!) this weekend!

6:12 AM  

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