Archive for August, 2009


Long Weekend: My lack of attention to detail really screwed me up on this one. I had intended to download Colin Eggleston’s original version, but I ended up with Jamie Blanks’ 2008 remake starring James Caviezel and Claudia Karvan. A lot of folks seemed to have called for the new guy’s head since the original is apparently unfuckwitable (read: not to be fucked with). Well, to be honest, the new version of Long Weekend is pretty stupid. In fact, the cheesy and contrived lounge music (again, Blanks) that accompanies the majestic imagery of the national parks in Victoria serve as a fair warning for what was ahead. Despite having a rather interesting premise, Long Weekend falters hither and thither before falling flat on its face. I would have been cool with the “See this is what happens when you screw with Mother Nature” nonsense, if she had put up a better fight.

Just imagine, the friggin natural world – in all her brutality and splendor – wants to mess with a thirty-something dude and this is how she does it – a mother eagle claws at his eyes, ants bite him in the ass, a dugong stalks him really slowly and large waves interrupt his surfing; sounds like a teenage comedy starring Eugene Levy as the only actor with an ounce of dignity within a 100 metre radius, doesn’t it?


On the dimly-lit side, some of the scenes sporadically seem beautiful and all, but nothing that can overwhelm the mediocrity that otherwise permeates the screen. Of course, now I really want to watch Eggleston’s original. I’d be amazed if the story was any less sillier, but I do wonder if the new wave surrealism of 1970s Australian cinema offers fair compensation.

As for the acting, ah yes the acting….actors Caviezal and Karvan paint about seventy different expressions of fear, paranoia and annoyance on their faces, the pet dog does its fair share of sniffing dead animals and running around circles, and the dugong goes through at least four visible mood changes, including one that can only be referred to as an extreme case of rigor mortis. I hope the dugong was fairly compensated. Its zombie impersonation could have only been rivaled by Keanu Reeves in Walk In The Clouds; and only one of them was required to act like one.


Black Water: Australian eco horror enthusiasts (about six, by last count) have been grappling with the question of which one turned out to be a better flick – Rogue or Black Water? Two tough-as-nails boat trip films that pit a bunch of wussies against vicious crocodiles in the serene backwaters of Australia.  I really really enjoyed Rogue and had it as the best movie about a cranky croc ever. Black Water comes close, but for me, it falters where Rogue had nailed it perfectly – character development. I just didn’t care what happened to any of the three characters in Black Water.  See, in Rogue, I jumped up whenever one of the characters escaped the gnarly jaws of the crocodile and I guess I could have thanked the director Greg Mclean for that. He showed great finesse in offering us tidbits about the men and women in peril so that we, the audience, give a crap when the crocodile goes after them.


In Black Water, director David Nerlrich seems to have spent so much time drenching the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia in warm, ghostly light that he could have forgotten that there three people out there trying to survive the horror that effortlessly glides through them.

Then again, I can see why some people prefer this one over Rogue. Some don’t like the dramatization of an eco crisis; me, well I’m a sucker for it (the more ruthless, the better).  Of course, if I am ever stuck in the backwaters with a psychopathic reptile looking to make lunch out of me and a chance to be heroic offers itself up for grabs, I’ll say “no thank you…I’d rather live”.

Life’s more Black Water than Rogue. That explains my preference, as well. Dam I almost forgot. Brad Oxenbould of Comedy Inc makes a cameo appearance. Cool.


Razorback: Russell Mulcahy 1984 moody creature feature makes pretensions about it being more than just a film that chronicles the exploits of a crazy-ass feral pig. The pretensions work tremendously well because the director has passed some on to the cinematographer Dean Semler, who makes the desolate landscape of Mad Max look like a fertile meadow. The grim, esoteric sceneries bring goosebumps and neck hair stimulators to the party and seriously enhance the experience of watching a taut thriller. As for the killer pig, well it is a bizarre and scary sight, but nothing that most B-list directors couldn’t emulate given today’s technology; for a film made during the early Eighties, the production is fantastic.

Apparently the Peter Brennan novel on which Razorback was based apparently has another storyline going through it – one with diamond smugglers and whatnot. Thankfully, director Russell Mulcahy came to terms the film’s selling point (killer pig on the loose) and did a fine job not making a mockery of it.

Jaws Shmaws, King Kong, Sing Song… Razorback is the true creature classic, folks.

Storm Warning: To paraphrase an old joke,

Knock Knock

Who’s There?

The guy who directed the remake of Lost Weekend

Go away fucker

Rogue: Already reviewed here

Wolf Creek: Already reviewed here

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What is democracy?

This is possibly the most valid definition of democracy I have heard.

Democracy is when two wolves and a sheep meet to decide who is for dinner.

Liberty is when the sheep has a gun

Kamikaze Reporter from Chennai

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I wonder what in the hell the devil would want with Kollywood music director Vidyasagar’s soul. I can think of no other scenario in which he created the track – Putham Pudhu Pattu – for the movie Thendral other than one in which he sold his soul to the horned-one for a bit of artistic acumen. Any bloke who came up with that torturous Chandramukhi soundtrack and that god-awful Appidi Poddu Poddu song truly deserves to rot on a deserted Island with Milli Vanilli and Isai Tsunami Deva. Matter of fact, Putham Pudhu Pattu makes me question what I have understood about art. I just don’t get it how could Vidyasagar produce a sound so raw and so blisteringly poetic.

Anyway, to hell with that, this song deserves so much more than vapid introspection about the authenticity of its creator. If you don’t already know, Thankar Bachan’s Thendral is a fantastically depressing film. It doesn’t just want to tug at your heartstrings; it looks to rip the fucker out of his socket and stomp it on wet mud. Parthiban, Ramesh Khanna, and Uma Pathmanaban dial in good-to-great performances, as we get to mull over their characters and the decisions they take.

parai drummers

For me, the highlight of the film is the song sequence that takes place in prison, with a death penalty-bound inmate (dancer Lawrence) saying farewell to life and its supposedly glorious living through a song and dance routine. See, he’s a parai drummer and beating the cow skin-clothed instrument is all he has been taught in life; and in essence, he has used that rhythm to find a place in society until fate landed him in jail.

Putham Pudhu Pattu is one of those songs that can make you want to shake a leg or two with its tight percussion (if I can call that) blasts, and its lovely verses coaxing you to crumble to the floor in a fetal position, wondering if anyone will love you as much as mommy once did. Seriously, the final slow-burning verse is quite something else.

That’s why I love this track so very much…it’s not just satisfied with making us slaves to its rhythm, it goes ahead and makes us empathize with the devil in its details.


Putham Pudhu Pattu

Read about parai and thappaattam

Here, here and here.

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K_Balachander I have very few K Balachander films on DVD so I have to rely on my memory for most of these reviews. I’m yet to figure out how many of them I can write about without forgetting any of their most precious moments, so I’ll keep updating once in a couple of months.

Oru Veedu Iru Vasal (One House, Two Entrances): K Balachander is the greatest living Indian director. Maybe it’s my meagre understanding of Malayalam and Bengali films, but I just can’t think of a more suitable Indian to tell a story than this legendary director. I have watched Oru Veedu Iru Vasal at different points in my life. As a kid, I was perturbed by the fact that there simply wasn’t enough of comedian Charlie going around; I thought he was extremely funny and the magnificent cut-and-paste editing of the film actually got in the way of fully appreciating his humour.

As a high-schooler, I fell in love with the film for the music of the violinist siblings- Ganesh and Kumaresh – that did things to my ears that weren’t done since I first heard the theme song to that awesome old Doordarshan sitcom – Rayil Sneham. A couple of years ago, I watched it on Vijay TV and it left me breathless with delight. I mean, seriously folks…when done right, Tamil cinema can be fantastic. Apart from the man himself, men like Balu Mahendra, Santhana Bharathi and recently, Bala, Ameer and Sasikumar have done the genre proud with their complete nonchalance for the proven and successfully (repeatedly) tested.

Even song and dance routines don’t make idiots of themselves in Balachander films. oru veedu iru vaasal So, Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal is split into two storylines; in one, a forlorn musician cheats on his wife and impregnates his housemaid to disastrous consequences, and in the other, a single mom who works as an ‘extra’ in Tamil movies tries to give her a son the life that has eluded her. Acting-wise, everyone’s brilliant – Charlie and the rest who play broken down yet exuberant characters of the Kodambakkam ‘extras’ colony, Kumaresh, who gives sleaze a bit of class as the musician, and of course, Yamini. yamini Lovely, seldom heard of, preciously stocky Yamini. In this, she lives up to the pressure of being one of the protagonists in a Balachander film. In fact, her performance bears resemblance to the many of another fantastic actress – Saritha. One might argue that the transition between the two storylines could have lent itself to a bit more finesse, but then again that is a natural reaction, considering how truly great and subtle his films were during the Seventies and Eighties.

Orru Veedu Irru Vaasal was released in 1990 and if he had not made Kalki in 1996, it would have been the last time a damsel lit up Kollywood’s silver screen under the guidance of the impeccable Kailasam Balachander. If anyone has rapidshare links or workable torrents for this film, do let me know. 200px-Varumayin_Niram_Sivappu_dvd

Varumayin Niram Sivappu (Red Is The Colour Of Poverty): I cringe every time either Vijay or Ajith portray an educated youth beaten down by society and its flaws. They pull silly faces, shed glycerine, and horrifically pout their lips as though someone told them to eat garlic and French kiss the neighbourhood cat. Kamal Hassan, on the other hand, does it in a way that immediately drags you into the dark corridors of his life. Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu may not be as scathing as Sathya, but it is definitely a clearer dissection of the unemployment issue that once killed the middleclass-youth and the collective dream of using education as an means to an end. Add some very fine acting to the mixture and you get a thoroughly enjoyable indictment of society.

Like many have said before, Balachander can bring out the best in an artist…S V Shekar has never seemed cleverer with his comedy, Sri Devi has never looked classier and well, Pratap Pothan (much like Kamal pre-PMK) is a fucking genius, no matter who directs him. As if these weren’t enough, MS Viswanathan has composed some beautiful tunes for this film. The dueling Sippi Irukkuthu with SP Balasubramaniam and Janaki on vocals is yet to outlive its melody. Can I buy a meadow and lie down listening to music from Balachander films all day? Pretty please?

AgniSakshi_L Agni Sakshi: Saritha is one of my favourite Indian actresses. The restraint with which she shows her anger could have been stuff that many intriguing film dissertations revolved around. As for Sivakumar, if his son could be half the actor that his dad once was, well he would be deserving of the praise showered upon by everyone and their dog.

Balachander is intense as hell in Agni Sakshi. The role he has created for Saritha is truly one of greatest characters written for a female lead. saritha-mukesh The story follows Agni, a righteously tortured and insecure young lady, and her descent into middle-class madness, along with her husband (a strong performance from Sivakumar) and his family. But don’t expect to see domestic abuse, dowry hassles or random cherries popping, the stuff that drive this woman crazy is…well, just watch that scene in which she blows her top at her sister-in-law’s place over a baby-shaped candle and you’ll understand why words sometimes play poor ventriloquists to certain emotions. Saritha is so unbelievably good in this role that I presume that one of two things must have happened…she must have either gone temporarily insane during the shooting of Agni Sakshi or director Balachander has actually worked movie magic. No prizes for guessing.

sindhubhairavi Sindhu Bhairavi: I’ll get this out of the way, this film has music that you should run over something furry and bubbly with a lawnmover to get your hands on…everything from Naan Orru Sindhe and Padariye Padipariye to that drunken folk song (Thanni Thotti) that Sivakumar sings during his many moments of alcohol-fueled depravity. I have a soft corner for the film Sindhu Bhairavi because I watched it many eons ago with my grandpa when my folks were busy with somebody’s funeral. Mostly I remember my grandma telling him to switch it off because it wasn’t ‘chinna pasanga padum’ and like any self-respecting scoundrel, I made sure I watched the entire film. For what it was worth back then, it got me hooked into the decadence of music and lust. Sushani performs like she has never before; she proudly holds a candle against the darkness, in which Balachander has immersed her character. Shockingly, even her crying looks mature and plausible (if you aren’t shocked, you simply haven’t seen enough Tamil movies).

As the tortured artist-adulterer Sivakumar is pretty convincing too. Most of all, we should give props to two of the most underrated actors during the early Nineties – Janagaraj and Delhi Ganeshan; both exude all sorts of subtle class and graceful silliness respectively. Did I tell you about the music? Oh I tell you, the music.

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session 9

Session 9: I didn’t know this until IMDB filled me in a few hours ago, but I have seen all of Brad Anderson’s films. In fact I have enjoyed everything he has done. Despite being little more than romantic comedies, Happy Accidents and Next Stop Wonderland escape the suck on the merit of its actors – Marisei Tomei, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Philp Kaufman. As many of you already know, The Machinist is fantastic and actually does justice to Christian Bale’s method acting shenanigans. Of course, there is that gratuitously updated Hitchcock train ride of 2008 – Transsiberian – which then brings us to Session 9 (co-written by Stephen Gevedon) that was released in the year 2001. I watched it a few days ago and I must say, it has left me in a deliriously creeepy state of mind (much ike Wolf Creek, Descent, Eden Lake). The sort in which, you are strangely at ease with not predicting false climaxes since you actually care about what happens to these characters; in which, you are also not cool with the director’s sense of justice, but you choose to make peace with it for the sake of cinema. Seemingly trivial stuff, but constant reminders that there’s more to the relationship between films and free time.


So, this five-member asbestos cleaning crew goes to work on the Danvers State Mental Hospital (now an abandoned asylum) and well, something’s not right. The boss man – Gordon (Peter Mullan) – seems to be a little over the edge, his best friend and crew chief – Phil (David Caruso) – has gotten secretive about his professional intentions while the other two – Hank (Josh Lucas) and Mike (Gevedon…again) – seem more troubled than ever before. Oh there’s Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) too, but he’s just a slacker who’s afraid of the dark. As the film claws its way towards a feverish climax, you are desperately unsure about what exactly is creeping you out; and when you finally realize the cause behind all the bloody carnage, you sigh and think about how enormously frightening it must be for blind mice to find love. If you are one of those normal people, you’ll probably recoil in terror and mumble, “oh that’s messed up”.

Ahem…anyway, Peter Mullan and Stephen Gevedon give fantastic performances with the latter proving his mettle in scriptwriting, as well. Tight, atmospheric, and gripping, Session 9 is definitely one of the creepiest films I have ever seen.


Quarantine: I love zombie films. If my fears about the swine flu were to ring true and the dead start coming back to eat the living, I would want George Romero to come over to India and shoot a film about that. Hell, he could even title the film as  Had To Joke About Pigs Flying, Didn’t You? and I’d still love it. Zombies = fun. Needles to say, I got a real kick out of Quarantine. John Erick Dowdle, along with his brother Drew, took the storyline from Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo (who wrote the apparently superior Spanish original – REC) and gave it an ol’ American twist. For instance, they bring into account the distrust people had towards the Bush administration. In this case, a bunch of middle-class folks are trapped inside a building that has been sealed up by secretive government agents. Inside, a cop and a military officer try to rally up the forces to ward off those pesky zombies. I am pretty sure I have seen this a hundred times before in different films, but I have yet to dislike even one. However I must admit… The Poughkeepsie Tapes movie sounds infinitely cooler.


Dead Man’s Shoes: My consumption of Shane Meadows’ films begins with Dead Man’s Shoes. I have read too many nice things about him for me stay away from his work any further. I guess I’ll post a Shane Meadows edition in couple of weeks, so I’ll make this one brief. Dead Man’s Shoes is a tremendous low-key revenge thriller. The premise is not original, but the atmosphere certainly is. The lush sceneries that embrace the screen every ten minutes, along with the lovely music score, do wonders. The film begins with Richard (Paddy Considine) scouting lambs for the slaughter, as we are told that this former army officer is out to draw blood from all those who did horrible things to his younger brother. And then we meet the perpetrators – some callous, drug-addled men, others normal blokes who just had a wild night out. There’s almost this Woodsman effect (a film in which Kevin Bacon plays a sympathetic pedophile) which causes you to question Richard’s morality – and that’s exactly what makes this film utterly fantastic (and also why Azrael remains as one of the great Batman characters). I will write more about Shane Meadows soon.


Bottle Rocket: Wes Anderson’s films – Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – have redefined my expectation of humour from mainstream American cinema. Even the recent Darjeeling Limited was pretty great too. As much as I would like to habe them labeled as underground, they wouldn’t fit the billing. They have A-list actors, a decent budget and pristine production – elements that fortunately seem inept at tainting the humour quotient. Prior to watching this, I have heard a lot of nice people say that Wes was never quite as funny as he once was in Bottle Rocket. Well, I don’t know, man…I just wasn’t tickled by Bottle Rocket’s supposedly whimsical comedy. It was almost as though Wes Anderson let the more random of the Coen Brothers (not sure which one) take over the directing duties. While I could have thought of far worse directors to associate metaphorically with this film, it does lack the charm that accompanied his Wes’ films with Bill Murray.

The story is that Owen and Luke Wilson – two likable criminals desperate to play high stakes try to weasel their way into better lives. The jokes draw a laugh or two, but that’s mostly because of the over-the-top delusion of Owen’s character (Dignan). You can almost see where Wes Anderson got the idea for that Eli Cash character in The Royal Tenenbaums. Luke’s a miss in this one as his character channels the mild confusion that drives those kids in Beverly Hills 90210 and passes it off as existential grief. Together they get themselves entangled into silly situations until salvation reaches out to one of them. Unlike the film, life’s happy ending worked out much better. Mr Wes Anderson has grown to become an absolutely terrific director.

incident at loch ness

Incident At Loch Ness: So, this Hollywood producer (Zak Penn) ropes in Werner Herzog and a few others to shoot a film about the Loch Ness monster. Little does Herzog know that Zak just wants to make a blockbuster without actually giving a shit about cinema, art, German New Wave and all that. The thing is, another crew is already filming a documentary about Werner Herzog’s life so we, the audience, get to watch the making of The Enigma Of Loch Ness, and also the making of the making of the same. Of course, none of this actually true, so what we are left with is a confusing mockumentary that is both hilarious and silly in equal proportions. Directed by Zak Penn (who is friggin awesome as a mean-spirited asshole), and starring Herzog…wait, no really…dammit. Go watch Incident At Loch Ness and you tell me.

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tada da den (click click)

tada da den (click click)


I have had a sheltered view on Sly Stone; despite many heartfelt claims by some  of whom I greatly respect that this gifted Texan kickstarted the grand congregating of soul, funk and psychedelia during the late Sixties. Yeah whatever, I thought. Well, replace soul with alt country, and that’s exactly what they told me about Phish and I still don’t get what the fuss is all about. I have heard a few songs like I Want To Take You Higher, Underdog and Everyday People and yeah it was funky and delightful in a hyper-kinetic Bobby Byrd sort of way, but nothing that could hold a candle to the great things that have been written as tribute to Sly Stone and his merry band– The Family Stone.

sly & the family stone

Of course, everything changed after I heard their 1971 menacing beast of an album – There’s A Riot Going On – last week. I mean, for the love of everything that is funky fresh and soul buttery, this was sprinkled with some of the freshest sounds that the early Seventies could muster up. You’ve got the basic inspiration for all your Red Hot Chilli Peppers, D’Angelo, and Brand New Heavies, as well as those wonderfully rich and multi-layered harmonies that Family Stone band cook up on There’s A Riot Going On. Sly Stone brings the darkness with his restrained, organic and world-weary vocals and equally depraved social commentary. The surprise might have worn off, but the pain he let loose on the canvas still sounds as intense as it once did.

Before I start raving about the album, I’ll get this out of the way….I personally think that Just Like A Baby and Runnin’ Away should have been in one of their earlier albums, they seem too contrived to fit into the scheme of things. A repetitive, stuttering riff carries both these tracks into territories that would later be defiled by the likes of Musiq Soulchild and Craig David.

On the flip side, Thank You For Talking To Me About Africa shines like the funky m*****fucker (yes, even I have moral standards) that Sly wants it to. It sidesteps any pretentions one might make about a seven minute-plus funk opus and launches into a bass-heavy rhythm section with Sly warbling, “flamin’ eyes of people fear, burnin’ into you, many men are missin’ much, hatin’ what they do” somewhere over the rainbow. Africa Talks to You (The Asphalt Jungle) is about a minute longer and more qualified to get a crowd going, be it protestors at a rally or soul-aficionados at a George Clinton concert.

Time, freakishly enough, is reminiscent of the song (of a similar name) written by Mick Jagger. Difference being while Jagger confidently reassures himself that time is on his side, Sly takes us into the insecure mess that has become his psyche (by the Seventies) and says stuff like, “if you don’t mind please, why give slack to a deserter, it’s about time”. The music could have easily passed for a Motown single, and I mean that in a good way.

Other highlights include the gorgeous and delicate Family Affair in which he gives us a vocal performance that is both suffocating and mellow. The darkness however is kept to its bare minimum in the music; matter of fact, it has lovely, piercing note that dances all over the vocals, but still when he sings, “one child grows up to be somebody that just loves to learn, and another child grows up to be somebody you’d just love to burn, it’s a family affair, oh it’s a family affair”…it gets to me. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, I have Deepak Chopra, Dr Phil and my mom – all on speed dial.  And there’s Spaced Cowboy. Proof that not all yodeling will lead to the listener wanting to hurt himself with blunt objects.


There’s another song I want to talk about…Trip To The Heart. This one’s from their A Whole New Thing album and dam, it kicks so much of arse that presumably, funk musicians living near and around the San Francisco Bay have been experiencing chronic posterior pains for the past three decades. Maybe because none of them have created anything that even begins to scrap the surface of this incredible track. It begins innocuously enough, with eerie screams acting as a precursor for the brilliant mess of sounds to follow. You can hear so many different genres in this song that you almost feel like you overrated Radiohead’s Kid A.

Seriously, Mr Sly Stone…Thank you for talking to me about soul.


Sly & The Family Stone – Thank You For Talking To Me About Africa


Sly & The Family Stone – Family Affair

Sly & The Family Stone – Trip To Your Heart

Sly & The Family Stone – Luv And Haight

Sly Stone & Tommy Jones – Everyday People


The Essential Sly & The Family Stone Collection

There’s A Riot Goin On

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Christopher Guest

Best In Show: Christopher Guest has a weird sense of humour. My guess is that he just wants to have a good laugh and in the process let us in on the joke as well. Personally, I find a lot of Herzogian elements in his mockumentaries. Take away the poetry, the boorish (justifiably so) intellectualism and captivating music that fuels Herzog’s films and you are left with snippets from Guest’s improvisational humour. They both seem to share a view on humanity that is constricted by its tendency to overlook some of life’s inconsequential details; the major difference being only of them thinks it’s rather funny while the other suffers because of it. In the 2000 ensemble comedy – Best In ShowChristopher Guest calls back his favourite actors (Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey and the rest) and casts them as delightfully crazy masters of best-in-breed mutts that compete for the top prize at the annual Maryland Dog Show.


Eugene Levy and Fred Willard have had some elaborately unfunny moments on silly teen comedies and terrible Jay Leno skits, but in Best In Show – they tickle our funny bones with the audacity of a haywire buzz saw. The ‘expert’ commentary between Fred Willard and Jim Piddock along with Larry Miller’s hostage negotiation 101 is perhaps the funniest I have ever seen in any of his films. Despite the towering expectations, I am completely excited about watching A Mighty Wind tonight. Oh, Christopher Haden Guest also happens to be one of founding fathers of Spinal Tap.

waiting for guffman

Waiting For Guffman: This was my introduction to the world of mockumentaries. I watched Waiting For Guffman on Star Movies years ago and I found myself incredibly amused by its central character – Corky St Clair (a star performance by director Christopher Guest). As a director, the man has crafted one heck of a small town parody of community theatres; I mean, you almost hesitate to let it tug at your heartstrings considering all the good-natured silliness involved. But it does, and more importantly, it also makes you laugh out aloud. So this failed Broadway director (Corky) visits Blaine, Missouri and gets himself to direct a full-blown musical tribute as part of the town’s 150th anniversary celebration. Without access to actual talent (and with questionable talent himself), he looks to hire the town’s eccentric citizens and teach them the finer nuances of theatre against a dreaded ticking clock.

See, the catch is he has also invited Mort Guffman, a famous Broadway producer to critique the show, so to say that Corky is under pressure would amount to little else than a gross understatement. Once again, Eugene Levy and Fred Willard are hilarious as harmless buffoons looking to elevate themselves beyond the ordinary, as is Johnny Savage who has a stomach-achingly funny confrontation with his Corky. As slapstick as the premise maybe, the nuances of Waiting For Guffman are cleverly crafted with aplomb. So clever that even I was waiting for Mort Guffman by the end of the film.a-mighty-wind

A Mighty Wind: Remember when I mentioned ‘towering expectations’? Yeah, A Mighty Wind builds a friggin castle on top of such preconceptions, decorates the terrace, stands on the edge of it and laughs at me. Thankfully, it also happens to be my favourite Christopher Guest film yet. I can’t began to explain how over-the-top awesome this film is; so I’ll skim right past stating the obvious about the director’s comic timing. Watching Guest’s familiar ensemble cast do their thing in A Mighty Wind almost made me forget that this was a mockumentary. Well, it is indeed one, but it has so many ‘oh but it feels so much more than that’ moments than most face cream and ass wipe company executives would cry themselves to sleep thinking about it.


Eugene Levy reels in, I think, the finest performance of his career; it almost erases my memory of him a fathering an imbecile and mentoring viler ones in the grossly unfunny American Pie series. In A Mighty Wind, he plays Mitch Cohen – a folk legend back for a folk reunion concert after decades of self-loathing and eventually, silence. So here’s the deal…Jonathan (Bob Balaban), son of legendary folk music promoter Irving Steinbloom, wants to put on a reunion show at his city’s Town Hall in memory of his dad’s contribution to the art form. Apart from Mitch, and his co-singer Mickey Crabbe (Catherine O’Hara), he also invites the famed folk triad The Folksmen (Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest), and The New Main Street Singers (a bunch of fantastic actors).

Like I said, Eugene Levy is fantastic as a crazed genius songwriter; he channels the auras of Lennon, Sonny and even Ringo with a twist of wry humour that the film’s characters are known for. Catherine, Parker Posey, MckKean, Shearer, Rachel Harris, and Michael Higgins are hilarious too. Once again, Fred Willard gives you cramps with his one-liners. As the obnoxious manager of the squeaky-clean New Main Street Singers, he steals the show from under the nose of his fellow comedians. The recurring ‘Wha Hoppened’ joke wakes up from its slumber and hits that sweet spot in our funnybone that secretly thinks Jim Carrey is sort of funny. Of course, there’s also that great story that Steinbloom Jr (Bob Balban) tells about his overprotective mother.


Bob Balban: You could say she was overly protective – I just like to think she cared about me, which she did, a lot. And I was a member of the chess team and whenever we would have chess tournaments I had to wear a protective helmet . Now who knows what she was thinking? Maybe she thought that we might have fallen maybe and impaled our heads on a pointy bishop or something, I don’t know.

And the hits just keep on coming, folks.

for your consideration

For Your Consideration: Someone over at IMDB commented that “movies with real bad actors aren’t fun to watch; strangely, neither are movies with fake bad actors”. Unfortunately, he’s right, which perhaps explains why For Your Consideration is a step down for those appreciative of Christopher Guest. It’s not like he humour pales in comparison to his previous films, it’s just that it doesn’t occur frequently enough. Like that fellow said, a talented actor playing a horrid one doesn’t really present itself to many funny situations. In fact it is a stark reminder that people like Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Charlize Theron and Barbara Streisand are encouraged to continue acting, thanks to those award ceremonies. For Your Consideration is a story about an independent film that generates Oscar buzz despite featuring hyper-dramatic performances by its barely talented cast. Catherine O’Hara and Harry Shearer play veteran thespians, who are on the verge of being nominated in the primary Oscar categories. Shearer can’t be unfunny even if he tried really hard, so may the good Lord bless him. As for the rest of the cast, they start off on a funny note, but fizzle down towards the end of the film. For instance, both Catherine and Fred Willard are tremendous as Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her and a potty-mouthed Ryan Seacrest after about seventy shots of distilled rum, but their antics start to wear thin, as do the countless jabs at Hollywood.

The estranged wooing of a dim-witted film producer (Jennifer Coolidge) by Ricky Gervais, a sly and sleazy Hollywood executive is the only stand-out joke and even that isn’t really funny. Having said all that, it is still a safe bet to assume that For Your Consideration is funnier than most of the comedies that were released in the year 2000. Of course, don’t watch this if you haven’t seen any of his other works. You may think Christopher Guest is not all that funny.

Well, he is.

If mockumentaries were to epitomize a perfect marriage between nonsense drama and a really funny film, then Christopher Guest would be the proud old dad walking her down the aisle.

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quentin tarantino

Man, that Quentin Tarantino really knows his music.  Matter of fact I haven’t seen a Tarantino film that didn’t use music as a great enabler between the audience and the storyline.

madsen reservoir dogs

Take Reservoir Dogs, for instance. Why does the image of Michael Madsen grooving with a razorblade come to mind? (apart from the fact that Mr Madsen is obscenely cool). Two words for you…Stealers Wheel. That’s the band who recorded Stuck In The Middle With You, which was so expertly featured in that famed torture scene with Mr Blonde and the police officer.

tim roth pulp fiction

Here’s another one…think about what you remember the most about Pulp Fiction? For me, it has to be Dick Dale’s Misirlou – a kickass instrumental romp that plays once Pumpkin and Honey Boney get busy trying to rob the restaurant. Same goes for Jackie Browne and its excellent use of Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street and Tomoyasu Hotei’s Battle Without Honor or Humanity in Kill Bill I. Great tunes that instantaneously become greater with their association with pivotal sections of the film.

Quite recently, I got my hands on the Death Proof and Planet Terror soundtracks and I’ll be damned if these two didn’t contain some of the most fantastic music I have heard all year.  Death Proof is like that worn-out jukebox that the most detached college kid in the neighbourhood had during the Seventies. Bawdy, loud, fun and chockfull of throwback rock and roll.

april march

Despite contributions from fascinating bands such as Pacific Gas & Electric, The Coasters and T Rex, it is April March’s super-annoying Chick Habit that steals the limelight. Make no mistake, it is in fact super fucking annoying, but for some reason – it works remarkably well when heard in the film. I am yet to get Rosario Dawson’s skull crushing stomp out of my head.

As for Planet Terror (wasn’t directed by him, but I couldn’t help it), well I didn’t know that Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan could make such beautifully intense music. Ms Gowan shines the brightest when she lets her voice melt like sad butter on You Belong To Me, as Rodriguez pretty much kills it on most of the original compositions. Cherry Darling, Cherry’s Dance Of Death and The Grindhouse Blues are gnarly, ferocious and ethereal – all at once.

Man, that Tarantino fellow knows his music so well that it must be rubbing off on his friends too.

Listen (to other great Tarantino tunes)

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich – Hold Tight (Death Proof)

The Statler Brothers – Flowers On The Wall (Pulp Fiction)

Jimmie Vaughan  – Dengue Woman Blues (From Dusk Till Dawn)

George Baker Selection – Little Green Bag (Reservoir Dogs)

Dimitri Tiomkin – The Green Leaves of Summer (Inglourious Basterds, apparently)


Warm clothes

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Lawn Dogs: I am not entirely sure what director John Duigan wanted to convey through Lawn Dogs. It is the equivalent of reading a Patrick McCabe novel. You are not entirely sure about what’s going on, but somehow you are moved by it. Throw in some over-the-top symbolism and a haunting musical score and you’ll be lucky not to be squatting naked on your bathroom floor, clutching your knees, sobbing while dealing with a migraine by the end of the film.

Alright, maybe I exaggerate a bit (certainly not about McCabe though, try reading Mondo Desperado), but seriously, the ending freaked me out. And I want that beautiful piece of music that pierces through the climax more than I want chocolate shavings on my double-scoop sundae.

lawn dogs

Sam Rockwell once again gets on every critic’s good side with his commitment to his character’s eccentricities. Even in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, he played the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox with the perfect level of silliness and assholishness (I don’t get paid for this, you know). In Lawn Dogs, Rockwell plays Trent – a free-spirited, slightly insane trailer park reject who makes a living by mowing lawns in the nearby sophisticated housing development. Enter Mischa Barton, who plays Devon Stockard – a ten-year-old girl who feels so burdened by society’s imperfections that she hardly feels the need to let her mind wander within hundred feet of reality. They have something in common – the urge to keep running away until normalcy is all but a tiny dot.

Of course, the other residents misconstrue certain events, which leads to many awkward moments and by the end, a few disturbing, violent ones between these two lawn dogs and the rest of the world. Like I said earlier, I don’t think Lawn Dogs ended the way that would have probably catapulted it to greatness (or at least what I conceive to be so), but it did leave me with a feeling that it could never be replicated again. That’s more than I can say for most of what artists across different medium spewed forth during the Nineties.


Donnie Darko: Dam…I should have watched Donnie Darko a few years ago. Not that I didn’t enjoy it a whole lot, but something tells me that I would have just stopped short of persistently drooling if I had watched it then. See folks, if you want to make a film about teenagers getting messed up by peer pressure, social alienation and all that, this is what you do. You hire a competent actor (Jake Gyllenhaal is exactly that), give his character a vague emotional crisis, weave a plausible storyline around his life and then boldly going where few films about stressed out teenagers go  – a dark alley where different genres of film meet up and shake hands.

doniie darko

Donnie Darko does that to science fiction; often teasing to cross paths with time travel, but never obliging to say more than a kind word. I’ll stop before I confuse you further by talking about everything else than the storyline. So, go watch Donnie Darko. It is directed by Richard Kelly and features solid performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal (whom I think can do no wrong) and Holmes Osbourne. Oh, Patrick Swayze is remarkably sleazy and awesome in his role as the motivational speaker. No wonder he almost managed to save Niall Johnson’s Keeping Mum with similar creepiness.

followingFollowing: This one is Christopher Nolan’s first full-length feature film and with the exception of Memento, it also happens to be his most satisfying work. Surprisingly, most its uniqueness stems from the fact that the storytelling in Following hardly bears to any resemblance to any of his future endeavors that brought Hollywood to its knees. Before I go on raving about this and that, you should know that the narration is presented in a disjointed format; meaning that Christopher Nolan – the cinematographer – had more of an impact on this film than Nolan – the director or the writer.

Shot in a grainy 16 MM camera, it gives us a glimpse into the life of ‘Bill’ (Jeremy Theobald) – a writer who one day decides to follow people in order to understand more about them. An encounter with a sharp dressed thief (Alex Haw) leads ‘Bill’ and us, the audience, into a journey of fractured self-discovery. So, is this film noir? Perhaps, but with muted words replacing dramatic silence.


Pi: And this one just happens to be Darren Aronofsky debut film (both of which are available, excellently packaged at Rainbow DVD store in Old Parsons Complex). This too has been shot in murky black and white with the inconsistent camerawork working to its benefit. As horribly cheesy as the tagline – searching for patterns in all the wrong places – is, it perhaps is the most accurate description of Aronofsky oddly intense debut.

Pi has Sean Gullette playing Max Cohen – a New York-based mathematical theorist who believes that numbers can solve universal complexities and provide a definitive answer to the biggest problem of all, life itself. With the help of Euclid (his homemade supercomputer), he looks to find patterns that could give him control over the stock market. Like Following, the protagonist’s life changes after a strange encounter with an even stranger man – in this case, Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman), an orthodox Jew who theorizes on Torah (Judaism’s original religious and legal texts).


Now look, I have absolutely hated mathematics as long as my memory permits. Nothing made me sadder as a kid than to know that solving a problem involving numbers held the key to how close I was to a righteous asskicking from my dad. Despite that, I enjoyed the tricky arithmetic of Pi; mostly because the director didn’t suck the life out of it by taking away the element of human error.

Pi is splendid mostly because we pity Max Cohen more than anything else.

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Folk music, apart from being a natural extension of cultural folklore, has also built up quite the reputation for echoing the cries of the working class. As described by English antiquarian William Thoms, the word itself supposedly encompasses “the traditions, customs, and superstitions of the uncultured classes”.

Devendra Banhart

Nowadays, you can associate folk music with neither dissidence nor callousness; two warring emotional factions that could make for deliberately uncomfortable listening. Devendra Banhart is a glorious exception (unless I have missed out a few others). If at all, you find his music to be repetitive or the trembling in his voice to be annoying, do not panic…you just need a couple of whiskey shots and a few Woody Guthrie songs inside you for this to work out just fine.


As far as I’m concerned, Devendra Banhart is a friggin beacon of light in today’s cluttered indie folk scene. There is an air of whimsy that hovers around his lightweight acoustic music like a hummingbird; suffocating it with a sense of urgency that normally would be reserved for the most delirious of funk musicians.

In another (and obviously better) world, every radio station would invite daybreak with songs such as Lazy Butterfly or Autumn’s Child. They would even coax it back to its slumber by evening to tunes like Seahorse. As far from this world as we are, Devendra Banhart is still my favourite companion to drown the traffic noise outside my car window.


Devendra Banhart – Insect Eyes

Devendra Banhart – Feel Just Like A Child

Devendra Banhart – Sight to Behold (live)


Cripple Crow

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

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