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Many of you might remember Michael Jeter as the senile prisoner in The Green Mile who adopted a mouse called Mr Jingles. The fact is he had earned himself a living for nearly two decades playing wimpy, damaged characters. Bug-eyed, psychologically sprained and perennially anxious, he often acted like he channelled Woody Allen as much he did Clint Howard; a diminutive fellow sporting a comfortably un-Malayalee-like brush-tache who could act circles around the puddles of machismo that A-listers left around him. He could also evoke as much sympathy as an orphaned Lhasa Apso would from fans who “like” the ‘Blue Cross’ fanpage on Facebook.

In Terry Gilliam’s Fisher King, he turned in a brilliant essay as an homeless, HIV-infected and barking mad cabaret singer. In one of the film’s highlights, Jeter launches into a rendition of an Ethel Merman classic so passionately unstable that rumour had it that Robin Williams’ chest hair fell out, one by one, in sheer envy. Gilliam brought him back for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in which he was Professor L. Ron Bumquist – a speaker at the Las Vegas police convention on drugs, which Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) attends (on drugs). He gives a fiery anti-drug sermon, looking askance and volatile simultaneously; so much so that we can’t be entirely sure if Depp weaseling his way out of the convention was part of the script or merely instinctive for someone under the influence.

Skip Woods’ Thursday had him playing a psychiatrist engrossed in a sweaty conversation with Dallas (Paulina Porizkova), the psychotic seductress. In a particularly memorable scene, she leans over to him, asking if he has ever seen a porn film to which, he instinctively gulps several years of repressed sexuality, squirms a bit and replies, “Yes, I’ve heard stories”. The awkwardness he oozed was tremendously funny and when spliced with Paulina’s bloodcurdling charisma it worked better than Indian techies would have for the US of A.

Now, Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile would have been acceptable if it were 30 minutes shorter and had less of Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan and their plasticized zombie-like presence. Thankfully, Michael Jeter as Del Delacroix, a death row inmate, along with Doug Hutchison playing the sadistic prison guard, saved this film from absolute torment. A few of his scenes with Mr Jingles were saccharine enough to make girl scouts weep a ballet of tears, but he gave the character more depth than it deserved. In the first few scenes, his eyes were filled with derangement and abandon as he leered through the prison bars. Once the stupid mouse appeared, they glowed a quiet admittance of fate. Even his hyper-kinetic wailing (when Hutchison stomped the hell out of it) was inappropriately great. Bless his mongrel heart for having stayed true to his craft despite all the lounging he did with waxworks and glory hounds in and around mainstream cinema.

Michael Jeter’s swansong as an actor (after which he did voice overs for two animated films) was his finest too; a meaty role in Russo brothers’ ensemble comedy –  Welcome to Collinwood. He played Toto, the antsy carjacker who joins a inept crew of thieving buffons. His scenes with William Macy, Isaiah Washington and Luis Guzma were some of the funniest stuff that tickled American cinema in 2002. Even when the the script relied on burlesque homo-eroticism for cheap giggles, Jeter found a way to draw genuine laughs. In one such scene, a visibly disgusted Leon (Isaiah) insists that Toto “put his pants back on” to which a morbidly crestfallen Toto whimpers, “I can’t, I’ll catch pneumonia”.

Now, some IMDB user has used an exclamation mark at the end of his sentence on the film’s quotes page, which might make you go, “hey, isn’t that a Rob Schneider punchline?”. Cleanse your minds, minions, because Michael Jeter never delivered punchlines. He never shared an on-screen kiss with anyone attractive either. Matter of fact, everything he said and did, as preposterous as it might have sounded to the casual cinema-goer, lacked the “punch” that pompous old men with Citizen Kane’s dialogues tattooed on their foreheads spent years trying to imbibe in film students.

People might say he played the same character for two decades or whatever, but they would whistle and pretend to be distracted if someone else made the same argument about Samuel Jackson or Clint Eastwood, so let’s ignore these people mmkay?

In fact let’s lure these people with cheap porno magazines into an abandoned godown and force them to sit through five Al Pacino performances (Dick Tracy, S1m0ne, 88 Minutes, Righteous Kill, Scent Of A Woman).

We’ll just sit back and relish cinema’s underdogs, actors who simply can’t be replaced by textbooks and templates, actors like Michael Jeter.

(Jeter died from an epileptic seizure in 2003 and isn’t nearly as fondly remembered as he should be)

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Do the bunny hop

Back in the day, we called her the badly-edited bunny. Her words hop,skip and jump over most of the stuff we get to read in newspapers or blogs these days.

Try it.

http://thecomedyofmirrors.wordpress.com/

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Words don’t always do justice to Illaiyaraja. Like now, for instance.

Karpoora Bommai Ondru – Keladi Kanmani

Valayosai – Sathya

Kalyaana Maalai  – Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal

BGM – Mouna Ragam

Kanne Kalaimaane – Moondraam Pirai

Devadai Poloru – Gopura Vasalile

Siva Sambo – Ninaithalea Inikkum

BGM – Agni Natchathiram

Madai Thirandhu – Nizhalgal

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In case you’re wondering who or what Timothy Olyphant is – he’s one of the best actors of his generation. Here’s my favourite part, I don’t think he knows it. In fact I’m glad he doesn’t have critics and fans groveling at his feet; giving in to one’s own hype is the sort of shit that can mess up an actor’s instinct to exclude his own personal eccentricities into the role. Look what happened to Christian Bale and Edward Norton. This dude is probably just glad that he’s making a career out of films. We should be too.

Go: Doug Linam’s chic-flick Swingers got itself a fan base of lounge lizards and budding retrosexuals. Well, so did Andy Warhol’s crap that got passed off as pop art. He sort of redeems himself with the quirky druggie comedyGo. The film is pretty engaging because it intertwines Guy Ritchie’s ‘meanwhile back at the Bat-cave!” editing style with a drug deal gone bad storyline. However, Go doesn’t quite reach Spun’s level because it cuts out all the misery associated with that sort of shit. There’s no need to complain though, it makes up lost ground by featuring good actors in fantastic roles. Timothy Olyphant brings in a shade of Loki-like awesomeness by having his hair spiked on both sides as Todd Gaines – a small-time dealer. He takes Al Pacino’s method acting and takes s steaming dump on it. He worms and weasels his way out of bad situations and rocks a swagger like only the frontman of garage rock band can when things are going his way; never once looking like a fool…uhmm with his pants on the ground (I’m truly sorry). William Fichtner is hilarious as Burke, the passive bull dyke cop by day and psychotic salesman by night. No he doesn’t dress or talk funny; he just is. Sarah Polley is cutesy but she looks like she has no clue what she’s doing. Lucky for her, that’s exactly what was expected of her as a clueless part-time dealer. As for Katie Holmes, well she doesn’t piss us off by trying too hard; Timothy even saves her a couple of times by retracting our attention from her ‘hey mister, why did you kick my dog?’ look. Gooooo Olyphant.

A Perfect Getaway: David Twohy’s film is about two couples on a Hawaiian vacation that turns horribly wrong when word gets out that two of the four might be serial killers. Truth be told, it is better than it has any right to be. If logic properly governs our universe, watching Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn (unless he’s in a comedy) read lines from a woefully tame script should instantaneously make our eyes bleed (ears too, if Milla does her hyperkinetic, anti-gravity kung fu). The film also assumes that we don’t know who the killer is until the climax, but that doesn’t work because unlike algae we have brain cells. So how does it make a perfect getaway from rotten tomatoes? Well, we can thank some very fine acting by Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez for that. Olyphant is top form as Nick, a younger, hipper and americanized version of Crocodile Dundee as is Ms Sanchez, his beautifully bohemian better-half. Their love story stands out too, but very much unlike a sore thumb; set against the mesmerizing backdrop Puerto Rico beaches (the film was not shot in Hawaii), it is a touch of warmth that glows on your television screen. Milla and Zahn also have a love story going for them; problem is (potential spoiler) Mickey and Mallory had sex with it the night before the film was released and promptly killed it after breakfast.

High Life: High Life is one of those films that went unnoticed last year because everyone was too busy admiring the second coming of CGI technology in Avatar over anything else that had anything at all to do with good cinema. Nah, who am I kidding, Gary YatesHigh Life would have been swept under the carpet anyway. It’s too quirky for general movie-goers to enjoy, but just perfect for us, geeks, to fawn in fervor over its wry wit and intelligent timing. The story follows four morphine junkies trying to plan a bank heist while dealing with two-timing, overdosing and general douchebaggery. Stephen Eric McIntyre and Timothy Olyphant (Dick and Bug) just zoomed past Rogen and Franco as the most likeable on-screen stoned duo this decade. Bug’s psychotic (and abso-fuckin-lutely hilarious) temper tantrums and Dick’s feeble attempts at being level-headed have so much entertainment value in them that someone could run a sitcom and have it not go stale for at least two seasons. I seriously haven’t had this much fun watching two guys screw up their lives since Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith in The Cottage. It’s been a pleasure, Yates.

The Hitman: Nothing to see here that you normally wouldn’t find in a commode after eating spicy crabs from Marina Beach. I hope he bought something cool with his paycheck or gave away stuff to people who need free stuff.

Live Free or Die Hard: I think Tarantino holds a gun against Bruce Willis’ head and forces him to act well. Only Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown had him exhibiting any sort of acting chops. Len Wiseman’s Live Free or Die Hard takes an aging Bruce Willis and makes him jump and shoot a lot. The dialogues are as bad as they’ve ever been in the trilogy. So why did I bother watching it? I’ll give you a clue, it rhymes with sycophant. He cements his presence as the villainous Thomas Gabriel with such ease that it’s not surprising in the least that he reportedly filmed his part in three measly weeks. I’m guessing he wanted to be done with the embarrassment as soon as possible. In an interview with USA Today, he said, “this is the first time that I accepted a job where, for better or worse, a ton of people are going to see this thing, whether I like it or not.” Guess what Bruce Willis said about the film – “It’s actually one of my favorite Die Hard filmsit’s about teal guys fighting real guys… The car that you see flipping in the air in the trailer is actually a real car” Really? Well that changes everything. Asshole.

No Vacancy: I’ll go with what an IMDB user said about Marius BalchunasNo Vacancy – it tries too hard to be quirky. To paraphrase Kirk Lazarus’ observation in Tropic Thunder – you never go full quirky. When the directors, actors and everyone concerned try so hard to be adorably cynical or whatever quirky is to you, the film loses steam and ends up pretentiously boring. Fret not too hard for Olyphant again comes to the rescue as the stranger next to whom Christina Ricci wakes up to. He wastes not a vacant stare in portraying his character’s ambiguity in an otherwise alarmingly spaced out (not in the good sense) film. No Vacancy loosely features a series of vignettes about characters that you are likely to come across in a Jack Kerouac novel. The annoying violinist who couldn’t make it. A new age tripper who’s into colonic treatments for some reason. Drug addicts. Prostitutes. Pimps. Throw in Alexandrov Ensemble’s obscure classical music, as well, and we have a film that answers the age-old question, “What if MTV executives smoked crack?”

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The actor/ film-maker started his career with an intent to appear menancing but then slowly built a niche for himself by making people laugh riotously. That’s just in the Malayalam film industry. In Kollywood, he has acted in two of the best Tamil films ever made – Mahanadhi and Pattiyal – and stole the spotlight from everyone concerned. His role in Pattiyal is the stuff that would send the jury scurrying to rename the ‘best supporting actor’ category into something more apt like ‘best possible acting performance for the time given” maybe. On February 2, 2010, Cochin Haneefa passed away at the Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre in Porur, having suffered a long-lasting  ailment.

Much like Raghuvaran‘s (another great actor) death in 2008, the impact of this loss might not be felt all over India as much as it should be, but still there’s no denying that India has lost one of its finest sons of cinema.

R.I.P Mr Haneefa.

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…and as heartbeats bring percussions
fallen trees bring repercussions
cities play upon our souls like broken drums

Read

As if the heart were not enough by The Scholar

Review of Sounds From A Town I Love by Seventh Art

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Yeah, it’s that time of the month

Chennai Express has carried an article (thankfully, not sourced) by some good soul on indie darlings Department Of Eagles

How can you not love a list of top 10 films about pissed off primate and murderous monkeys? Browse through Shark Guy’s website; its co-owners wrote The Man Who Scared A Shark To Death

Beware of the blog, “a radio station that bites back”. Oh yes.

Duncan Jones’ Moon could do it for me. Sounds tremendous.

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