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Archive for March, 2009

In 2002, after a long period of absence from the cine field, yesteryear actor Ramarajan got himself tangled in a minor controversy by being one the catalysts that pushed Open Source applications towards extinction. During early 2002, a Wiki enthusiast, Walter Kannadasan, innocently added a page for Ramarajan on Wikipedia that sort of exaggerated the actor’s achievements and accolades. By dubbing him as a “Box Office Emperor” and a “dream hero”, young Walter set off a series of events that eventually ended up in a lot of people getting really pissed off with the fallacies of Open Source.

open-sooresIt was said that on June 8, 2002…the age of Wikipedia and Open Source officially came to a screeching halt with Ramarajan at the epicenter of the whole mess. In 2008, when the actor thought he finally understood what was going around, he called for a press conference and announced that his next film was going to be called “Open Sorres”.

When the tagline Enga Orru, Ellarakum Sorre leaked out a few weeks later, along with the rumoured storyline, it became pretty obvious that the thespian had not understood what the hell had happened. Official press releases made matters worse by claiming that it was going to be a touching story of one villager’s search for someone who has “studied computers” and who can help him “build software” that will produce soore (rice).

Bearing a quizzical look every time a member of his crew tried telling him that Open Source has nothing to do with sorre (rice), the actor often quipped that having played the role of a milkman approximately 543 times, he learnt a few lessons in life. One, apparently was to never use “Got milk?” as a pickup line and the other, was to know that if you don’t have a clue as to what’s happening around you, just thrust two fingers inside your ears and scream “La la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la”.

Despite all the negativity that surrounded Open Sorres’ release, the film did spectacularly well at the box office and to everyone’s surprise, the man who once milked cows for our entertainment finally got his day in the sun by almost immediately receiving a Bhaskar Award Nomination for Best Actor. With a harrowingly brilliant performance as Shenbahumagain, a 60-year-old man who rides to nearby towns on a TVS Vespa, desperately hoping to meet a “software genius” who could help him figure out how to create an “software type thing” that would generate rice grains…somehow.

A few months ago, Ramarajan was featured in James Lipton’s In The Actors’ Studio and we feel that it is fitting to let the curtains fall on the 2008 Bhasakar Award for Best Actor with an excerpt from interview.

James Lipton: Whot is your favourite noise or sound?

Ramarajan: La la la la la

Lipton: Excuse me?

Ramarajan: La la la la

Lipton: Mr R-AM-AAA-RAJUN?

Ramarajan: I can’t la la hear la la you la la la

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Firstly, big props to Jerry for the steady flow of bittorrent downloads. I pretty much spent the weekend tripping out episodes from the Dave Chappelle Show and Werner Herzog films. Keep em coming, son.

dave-chappelles-block-partyDave Chappelle’s Block Party: For the past two decades, Dave Chappelle has been a lot of things. A socially relevant intellectual. Brilliant comedian. Burned out performer. Guy who wrote a poem called Fuck Ashton Kutcher. The man who turned down 50 million dollars for the sake of integrity. Rick James…bitch. And once, during the summer of 2004, documentary scriptwriter of a fantastic, quirky documentary called Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Directed by Michael Gondry (yes, that Gondry), Block Party was filmed a few months after the 50 million dollar announcement. In fact, many saw Chappelle’s attempt at hosting a free comedy-hip hop concert at Brooklyn as some sort of a reiteration of the stand he had taken in refusing HBO’s big ass contract. Maybe that’s why dedications run wild in this documentary. Giving props to legendary musicians, fallen comrades, and the unified beat to which Brooklyn’s ghettos get their shit together to, the documentary seems to be inspired by Chappelle’s sense of nostalgia; a sincere tribute to his proverbial roots, if you will.chappelle-block-party-08

It’s also quite the picture to see his fellow brethren from hip-hop community hit that nostalgia pipe and smoke out mesmerizing performances. From the legendary Mos Def, Roots, Common and Kanye West (with a phenomenal orchestral version of Jesus Walks) to the neo goddess of soul Jill Scott, Dead Prez and ghetto poet Talib Kweli, the music from and inspired by Block Party is a fucking beast.

Oh and there’s the little incident of…you know, Fu-fucking-gees reunion! I’d like to say that the Fugees breaking their seven-year itch with the music industry is worth the price of the disc, or if you are thieving bastards like us, the time taken for the download…but a dragging version of Killing Me Softy (my least favourite Lauryn Hill moment) prevents me from saying so. I’m going to go with Dead Prez and their totally fucking gnarly version of their 2000 classic – Hip Hop. I swear, MC Stic Man is to freestyling as a chainsaw is to killing. Dave Chappelle’s there too. Ripping on the crowd, pulling fast ones, and taking us, the audience, on a personal tour of the Brooklyn corners, which gave birth to the fire that shot his wisecracking ass to celebrity status. Great stuff.

beyondreasonBeyond Reason: A basic knowledge of rocket science is not a pre-requisite to knowing that BBC television executive Alan Yentob worships Werner Herzog. To such an extent that he decides to make a documentary of the man himself as part of the Imagine series with BBC. In fact, so much that at times, I got the impression that he was eagerly looking to pick apart the more palpably human side of Werner Herzog in an effort to almost demystify the legend.

Quite simply put, Beyond Reason is one man’s attempt at documenting a story of a filmmaker and condensing it down to an hour. Now it would have worked if he were talking about Spielberg or perhaps, Tom Hanks. Celebrities and artists whose lives has symbolically followed similar pattern to the characters they have played or created. There’s pre-Hollywood ‘I slept on park benches’ nostalgia, then the prolonged fellatio sequence with major Hollywood producers, and the obligatory post-drug use or hugging trees and orphans or whatever.

But how do you tell a story of someone as complex as Werner Herzog, both as a man and a filmmaker?

werner-herzog-and-klaus-kinskiEspecially, considering the sheer amount of controversies and unsolved puzzles around the man. Did he really hold actor Klaus Kinski at gunpoint? Did he let intoxicated dwarves perform impromptu stunts on his car? Did he really direct Christian Bale? He did WHAT to that ship in Peru? And why the hell is Harmony Korine talking about Herzog? Beyond Reason offers a few answers, but with Herzog’s penchant for drama, most of the questions just keep coming back with a greater degree of tolerance. The most interesting part, I felt, was the prolongation of a debate that questioned his efforts at seeking the truth that so purposefully eludes artists and thinkers alike. Few have even opined that he is so infatuated with the search that Herzog sometimes manipulates people who are featured in his documentaries to corroborate his version of what the truth should be.

Personally, I have always thought of the German filmmaker as a creator rather than an observer. I see little point in such men merely chronicling events over which they have absolutely no control. As gloriously twisted and ironic that our real world is, I must say that it still is nowhere close to deserving a filmmaker’s trust for leaving it alone to tell a story. I’ll eat popcorn and watch scenes from Werner Herzog’s world all day, thank you very much.

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last-house-on-the-left-732058Last House On The Left: Wes Craven’s 1972 classic ranks alongside the likes of James Watkins’ Eden Lake and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs in its propensity to scare the living shit out of me. Much like Straw Dogs and Eden Lake, Last House On The Left is a slumbering beast that works tremendously well based on how real it feels to us, the audience. Most of us spend time worrying about the safety of the near and beloved; this fear is an inherent part of our humanity that indicates both maturity and insecurity. The trick, many tell me, is to not let this fear metamorphose into paranoia, but rather to let to meander somewhere around an aura of cautiousness. Wes Craven doesn’t make room for such comforts; this uncompromising urban thriller about a family terrorized almost makes you want to sign up for the next NRA newsletter. Despite the bloodshed and exploitative violence, the film packs quite a realistic punch; and like Ebert says, it has more in common with Bergman’s The Virgin Spring than with any other film that we could rightfully expect from Wes Craven. Google tells me that the tagline for Last House On The Left warned the viewers “to avoid fainting by keep repeating to yourself…it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie”. Well, that was a tad dramatic but still, what really, really makes the film work is the frightening prospect that one day, one of us might go through these ordeals too.P.S: I have not yet seen the 2009 remake, so I shall reserve my comments on it for later

the-wild-blue-yonder

Wild Blue Yonder: My love for Werner Herzog knows no bounds and lately, as I had admitted to the dude from Seventh Art, it has indeed become an obsession. With his dry German-Hungarian accent proving to be a perfect foil for the stories that twirl around his aesthetically tortured psyche, most of his films have left me in an almost drug-induced state of euphoric bliss. Quite simply put, Wild Blue Yonder is a science fiction mockumentary done Herzogian style. In fact, every so often during the course of the film, I was reminded of the track Faaip De Oiad on Tool’s Lateralus album. It was a paranoid mess of a monologue delivered by someone claims to be a former employee of Area 51 over feedback noise that took proper shape every 20 seconds. The thing is, as absurd as the track was, it was also strangely moving in its ability to throw the reins on the listener and to entice him with surrealistic allure. Much like the song, Werner Herzog’s Wild Blue Yonder is a work of art that takes itself seriously for the sake of absurdity. The storyline chronicles the events that led an extraterrestrial from the Water Planet to earth and then goes on to facetiously connect the dots between Kissinger’s diving expedition, the Rosewell incident and a bunch of CIA-led conspiracies. Reijsiger’s original music for this film along with Henry Kaiser’s cinematography hog the limelight as they provide little pockets of breathing spaces that are very necessary for films as fantastically surrealistic as Wild Blue Yonder. Not So Fun FactBrad Dourif, the actor who plays the extraterrestrial is also Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

14-guille

Born And Bred: Sometimes I get the feeling that films get irritated with me. I can visualize them clenching their fists and looking to hammer blows on my skull for not admiring them as they are, and instead criticizing for how I wanted them to be. Pablo Trapero’s deliberately moody Argentinean film Born And Bred must have been sharpening surgical knives on rusty iron by the time the end credits rolled. The story centers around Santiago, a successful interior designer whose life is thrown out of balance after a really bad accident. From then on, he embarks on a thinly veiled healing process that has Santiago dwelling in the nether regions of self-destruction. Relevant Quote From Random Movie: “Self-improvement is masturbation…self-destruction is the answer”. I really dug cinematographer Guillermo Nieto dreamlike photography throughout the film and actor Pfening’s performance as Santiago was riveting enough to evoke sympathy, but the rest fell sort of flat. Now if Mr Pablo had condensed all of this within a short film that ran for no longer than 15 minutes…now that would have been good stuff. Hmmm I can see why films hate my guts.

Twilight: Trashing films is my least favourite part of reviewing. But strangely and not very unlike some really good cough syrup that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I keep moving towards such endeavors. And well, for certain reasons, the readers seem to get a good kick out of it…so what the hell, here goes. Director Catherine Hardwicke’s monstrously silly movie about emo-vampires is so bad and so after-school special-ish that rumour has it that the director’s cut version of the DVD would have Mrs Hardwicke reading aloud a list of Schedule H drugs that she had consumed in order to convince herself that making this film was a semi-good idea. I swear, the creepy uncle in my old neighbourhood who used to beat the shit out of his son all the time had more subtlety in his pinky finger than this idiot director has ever had.

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Dammit…it is sort of fun being an uncle.

….my niece – the irresistibly grumpy and intolerably adorable Sasha.

me-and-sash

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mon1I have a niggling problem with comments. The way people twist them around with no intention of adding further to the conversation, but rather than to make it all about themselves and what they believe in.

And sometimes, ever so rarely, proof of evidence props up in my favour.

Comments on news reports on Express Buzz

Saravana Bhavan owner sentenced to life

Paul Krist thinks, “WHAT ABOUT THE THREE YOUNG ENGINEERS WHO WERE BURNED TO DEATH AT MARAN’S NEWSPAPER OFFICE IN MADURAI ? DID THE FIRE HAPPEN DUE TO SOME “EVIL SPIRITS” INVOKED BY THEIR ENEMIES ?? !! Some people burned them alive. If they are not the suspected politicians, who else did it?”

Lanka to make Kachchativu a sacred area

SONIA THE MUSOLINI believes, “Means that Srilanka going to PLANT BUUDHA statue and bring SKIN HEAD TERRRORISTS EVILS called MONKS in Sinhala to Kachathivu to destroy the CATHOLIC CHURCH as they have been doing to destroy all Hindu, Catholic and Muslim worship places in Eeema. Example: Trinco,Batticola, Amparai, Jaffna, Vavuniya, Pulmoddai, Moothoor, etc WITH THE HELP OF ITALIAN MUSOLINI SONIA THE EVIL WOMAN who will see the TOTLA DESTRUCTION OF HER CHILDREN RAGUL AND PRIYANKA’s FUTURE soon

Varun replies to poll panel notice, gets anticipatory bail

V.Mehta blithers on… “Similarly why no muslim or minroity apepasing ministers like Arjun Singh,Mulayam and Loo,etc are not in jail already for splitting the people on caste or community lines? Courts &RSS,VHP&BJP too better wake up. Now BJP must go for aggressive hinduvta and majority hindus must vote in large numbers for BJP and allies to save the hindus in India and Lanka and to eliminate the anti-hindu forces all around them.”

Please. Stop.

It is refreshing to see so many updates about the war in Sri Lanka; in fact, I don’t think any other newspaper has given it this much web coverage. Hell, it’s probably the only Indian-based news website , in which user-interface gets the respect it deserves. But to even entertain comments such as these…well, either you guys are still apathetic towards the wrecking ball machine that is Express’ brand image or well, this somehow increases your web traffic…nevertheless,

Please. Fucking. Stop.

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In 2005, with America on the throes of being engulfed in its own xenophobia, something remarkable happened. Director Paul Haggis witnessed an act of racism at a local pub that would change the landscape of blaxpoitation films forever. A Chinese kid was caught jabbing his arm and asked politely to leave the premises. Despite his protests that “the heroin was (r) leal mellow”, the bartender, a white man, insisted that he should leave without a fuss.

Haggis, unwillingly to let such blatant racial discrimination slide, smashed a beer bottle over the bartender’s head and ran out to the streets, covering his face with his palms and sobbing. “Why, God, Why,” by-standers heard him scream. “It’s been over two decades since Beastie Boys released their seminal Licensed to Ill album…an album, which I thought cross-pollinated hip hop and punk rock in an effort to bring races together….Oh God, Why!!” he mumbled on, apparently. After wiping the snot off his face, it struck him like something lighting quick. He realized how he felt when confronted by acts of discrimination. Paul Haggis wanted to smash racist fucks.

smashSet in fictional suburbia, Smash follows the lives of random people who randomly have inane encounters with each other and randomly share random facts about how NOT random life actually is. Starring Denzel Washington as black dude #1, Morgan Freeman as older black dude #2 and John Woo, making his on-screen debut, as irrelevant Chinese dude # 11, the film broke racial barriers as much as it did box office collections. In fact, it even broke Bruce Willis’ face for no apparent reason. The film, however, was not without controversy as many questioned the rationale behind casting a cardboard cutout of Sydney Poitier as older black dude #1…considering that Mr Poitier was still alive. But with the complete support of Hollywood and NCAAP, Smash was released promptly and within three months, became one of the year’s biggest grossers and its director Paul Haggis was no longer referred to as that Canadian-American moron who co-created Walker, Texas Ranger (which he did, by the way).

bhaskar-awards1The Bhaskar Awards proudly features the critically acclaimed Smash for smashing misconceptions about how tear-eyed, melodramatic, redundant and sentimental bullshit will no longer be tolerated by the masses.

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Critic…

I found this in Ratatouille, and I’m not sure which is lovelier…its content or the fact that it has no business in a film like that.

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new

Anton Ego

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