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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Synecdoche, New York

A perfect start to a weekend with an objective to relax.
But by no means this movie is a light one! Irony!
Background: This is a film written and directed by Charlie Kauffman. For those who dont know, he is the guy who wrote Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and the cult - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind.
This is his debut in director's chair.

There are somethings which you can not describe If you ask me how was Being John Malkovich or Synecdoche New york, my first reaction is- it is different and followed by I dont know followed by very good and then its a cult :). But in reality you have to watch these movies to understand what i am talking about.

In Synecdoche,New York a play writer makes a life size replica of New york inside a big warehouse inside New York. So what is the next step, there is a replica of the replica inside the replica and you can imagine where it goes.

Charlie Kauffman loves these things and so do I. He did it in Adaptation, He did it in Being John Malkovich and now he has done it again. People playing roles of actual people and people playing roles of people playing roles of actual people. Actors falling in love with actual people and and actual people breaking up with actual people because people playing actual people expressed what the actual person was thinking. Wow! Beautiful! Its funnny, Its satirical and more importantly its intelligent. No one talks like this. No one writes this anymore. Charlie Kauffman defies all rules of film making by saying that there are no rules for making a film.

From the directional purpose, the direction is not the best. He still has a lot to learn. A better music score would have made a huge impact. But from the point of view of writing a screenplay, he is a God. He is mixing reality and fiction/fantasy in such an easy way that you can not stop.

The sad part is that i am left with only one more Kauffman movie to see untill he directs another one. But the good news is that one viewing is not enough for the rest to fully understand them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The complex everyday mathematics

I need to go from point A to point B. There is mode ONE which takes t1 time and there is mode TWO which takes t2 time. t1 is half of t2. The cost of ONE is equal to cost of TWO. Mode ONE and TWO come when they please - aka they are not running in fixed schedules.

I have reached point A. After waiting for 3 mins 30 seconds, i see mode TWO coming. What should i do? Should i skip this bus and wait for the mode ONE to come but what is the guarantee that my waiting time is less than (t2 minus t1). Or should i board this mode TWO and take twice time than it should ideally take.

Such is the complex mathematics of our daily lives. Humanity was never simple from day1. There are so many problems that we encounter like the above one. Generally they are taken care of by role play. Brain takes two roles, each role in favour of one mode and they quarrel. No wonder my brain is tired of quarreling with itself. In the end i think who wins is decided by whether i am left brained or right brained. It is specifically worse for Gemini who are gifted with these two mindedness.

"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd"
-Alexander Pope

My movie classification

One can classify movies in many ways but i have found a unique way to classify movies.

Type I, Also known as sleepers-new : These are movies which you can watch when your brain is dead (almost!) after a hard day's work. You can see anything but it should be good. It should be engaging yet not requiring brain to think (very difficult to achieve). Preferably, it should be comic or musicals as they requires least brain activity. Not even for an instant the brain should feel that it is wasting its time by watching it when it is so tired. A perfect example of this kind is My cousin Vinny. I love My cousin Vinny. It has Joe Pesci at its finest. The humor is both slapstick and witty. The comedy is situational and in lines. Acting is fine everywhere. Other movies in this genre are traditional Allen movies, most of the bollywood stuff.

Type II - Sleepers-old: Very similar to the above genre but these are the movies which you are watching again. You have seen the movie before, you had liked it. You know when to laugh, when to say aha, when to clap etc. So you sit back with your brain down and enjoy the movie knowing everything about it. While sleepers-new are generally limited to comedy genre, this one is quite broad and includes drama, action and all kinds of genres. My favorite movies in this category are V for Vendetta, LOTR, Eternal sunshine..., Freedom writers, A few good men etc.

Type III - The Morning Sunlight: There are days when you wake up and before your hectic schedule starts, you have a couple of hrs for yourself. You want to relax and enjoy before the frenzy begins. Generally it happens on Mondays. It is at these times the morning Sunlight movies come and make the day/week for you. These are emotional/inspiring movies, movies which end happily, movies that make you hopeful, all in all these are feel-good movies. No one wants to start their day/week on a sad note. Some of my memorable movies belong to this genre. Not because they are the best movies in any way but just because of their sheer timings. They gave me a positive start and energy. Movies that belong to this genre are Good morning Vietnam, Evelyn, Jhankaar beats etc.

Type IV - The Experience: These are movies which you handpick yourself either from netflix, or from your library or you download them. You wait for them, patiently for an opportune time, when you think that your mood will match the mood of the movie. You wait for the right moment, a time when you are ready you can take them and .... enjoy them. These are Experience movies. Movies that come in this genre are Forrest Gump, Saving private Ryan, Kielowski, Goddard, Bergman etc. Basically most cult movies fall in this genre. And these are not easy movies to watch. 2 hrs of watching is equivalent to 4 hrs of work. You are sapped out, drawn into the movie by its force.

Type V - Unexpected surprises: Some may say that the adjective "Unexpected" is unnecessary for surprise but i disagree. Every good movie is a surprise but with little expectations. We all know some plot or some concept about the movie but rest is a surprise. Movies in this category surpass the surprise into unexpected territory. These movies are not handpicked, instead you just watch them based on some whim or someone's recommendation. These movies completely baffle us, and it can be both good or bad. For some it is like wow, those aha moments, and for others it is "what the hell" , or "How can he do this?". Movies in this genre are Pulp fiction, Sixth sense, Khosla ka Ghosla, Lost in Translation etc.

Type VI - For the heck of it: These are movies which you do not want to see yet you watch them. Why? For the heck of it. Because your friends are urging you to watch, or because everyone in your family is going to watch it, or when you do not have anything else to do. Rare movies from this genre go to the above category where they are made memorable. But most of them are bad movies and they are bad because your friends are ignorants and can watch anything. Sometimes you are that friends making others to go with you and sometimes you are at the receiving end. For me, mostly i am at the receiving end. Movies when i have dragged others to watch that have turned into disaster are - Watchmen, Unforgettable (i hope i can forget it). But there are thousands when i have been taken for a ride into a bad movie. Now, if i say no, it is not because i do not want to go with that person but just that i think the movie is going to be bad.

Type VII - The mindless moron. These are self-inflicted movies; movies which i should not have watched in the first place yet i did them because i was acting like a mindless moron. Movies which you know are bad, your intuition says no-not this one, yet there is some uncontrollable urge to watch it. An optimist says - "To appreciate good, you have to see bad" and justifies this category but rationalist says "In order to experience living without heart attack, you do not need to have a heart attack". I have seen plenty in this category. Some that i remember are Transporter, brosnan bond movies, mission impossible III etc.

That's all folks!

Life in 6 feb - 21 march

The surest sign that i am working a lot is i am watching lot many movies.

The above line summarizes most of my life in last month. Good movies and lots of good work. Life after coming back to US was not at all bad. Work started on Feb 4 and since then it has been a great period. I am working on relevance, algorithms, software development, little bit of systems and am at the heart of a browse based startup. Somehow the letters Q, J and W have found their way on a triple word score space on my scrabble.

And now about movies: :)
I saw Goddard's Weekend. This movie is a tutorial on movie making, each shot is different, a new style, a new art. But it is a very difficult to watch. What comes on screen is very difficult to digest. It is very heavy, very very heavy.

Other flicks that i saw were Watchmen (average), doubt (average), La Moma[My life in pink](Brilliant - Watch it for her acting), The Reader (Brilliant again, one in top 5 of 2k8), Freedom Writers (good one) and others are not worthy of mention.

My cooking experiments have started again. Gobhi parantha with everything from scratch in 30 mins, random mix vegetable, greek salad etc were some of them.

I fell in love with kabir the poet. There will be a post about him soon.

Slumdog's songs, delhi6's title track, paper planes, walle theme, kumar gandharva, lucky ali dominated most of my music listening last month.

Bought a bike and there is no way better (other than a convertible) to enjoy Bay area weather than riding my bike.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Alan Moore, Watchmen and V for Vendetta

In December while going to India i had finished Watchmen by Alan Moore. Yesterday i finished another one - V for Vendetta.

To start with, they are not comics. They are known as graphic novels. Just the way Pixar movies are not cartoons, they are animation.

Watchmen: The reason i read this novel was a movie is going to come next month and i wanted to read the book before i watch the movie. The book is interesting, very unconventional, stark and has a bitter-sweet ending (which btw didn't impress me much). But the idea and the graphics are brilliant. So is the way the story is told to us. No wonder this book is the most celebrated graphic novel of all time.

V for Vendetta. I had to read this one. As i had written before here, i love the movie. So how good it the novel. To start with, the movie is much better. The novel is little bit incoherent, a little annoying at times (if you have watched the movie) and is not as polished as the movie. It is futile to give an opinion about the novel without mentioning the movie. But one thing that struck me was that the novel is very well thought off. Almost all (99%) of the ideas occuring in the movie are from the novel. The girl who writes V on the wall, the dominos, the explosion of parliament by train etc its all there in the novel. Not necessarily in the same manner it happens in the movie but its all there. In novel one can write that ABC thing is happening while Beethven's fifth was playing in background. The reader can imagine in his head what it would be like, but it is a completely different experience to read that thing while Beethoven's fifth is playing in your cd player and it is also completely different to see the scene with the music in background. V for vendetta does it. V for vendetta, the movie also pays tribute to Monte Cristo something which was not there in the novel. To me V for Vendetta understood the novel way better than it was intended and made a cult ouf it.

Afterword: I have seen Watchmen the movie now. Zack Snyder's movie is a decent effort, not great though. One thing to admire is that it is very committed to the book otherwise i think the fans would have slaughtered him. It is interesting how someone changed a novel and turned in into a cult movie and how another remained true to the book but (almost) killed it.

Midnight's children

Finally, I have ended Midnight's children.

The story of me reading this book is not as fascinating as the book itself but it does require a mention. When i first came to US in Aug 2007, i had completed part one of this book. For those who dont know, the book has three parts. Life became hectic so i had to leave the book. Last month, I went home and while coming i again started reading the book again from page 1. This time i started early but by the time i landed in US, i had finished part 2 of the book. And then again it was unopened for 3 weeks. The thoughts of another India trip just to finish the book were coming up but they were put to rest by the fact that i wanted to know how it ended. And so i have finished it now.

General disclaimer: When i write about movies, about songs and sometimes about books, i am not writing any reviews. I am merely giving my opinion on the subject and how i perceived it. This is very different from what a review should be and what i write is precisely not a review.

Midnight's Children is a very good book to read. It is storytelling at one of its best. Salman Rushdie manages to combine Indian history with a fantasy story and writes a fascinating tale. The genre of writing fiction which combines real historical facts with an unrealistic unrationale fantasy (magic powers etc) was very difficult for me to get accustomed to. Salman (and others like him such as Marquez) write the historical facts so beautifully with so much attention to detail that everything is believable. But then they infuse text like magic, wizardry etc that i know are completely untrue but they write about these unrationale things with the same beauty and preciseness that sometimes those historical facts itself seem unreal.

But once i got comfortable with the genre and read the factual and unrationale with same sensibility, the book was a joy to read. Born at the stroke of midnight at 15 Aug 1947, these children's lives are tied with the development of India and the crux of the story is the correlation between Indian historical facts and the children's lives. Saleem Sinai, the protagonist narrates that how the atom bomb test, the war to liberate Bangladesh, elections, Indira Gandhi's emergency etc how it was all done to effect his life in one way of another. In other way, how he was responsible for all of them.

And i could have also related to Saleem in many levels. I have my own story that how i was responsible for so many things as i have grown. To mention just a few :

2002-2006, I did my engineering from NSIT. Before and leading to 2002 NSIT was on a rise but as soon as i entered, the current director was expelled, NSIT was under govt. scrutiny for financial frauds. By the time i left, the director was a RSS leader who later will be caught of having plagiarised verbatim two of his papers and will be forced to resign.

2006: My first job, i go and work for trilogy. Just before i start to work, the company is split into two. After i join, they change their work culture, implement bad decisions one after the another, the company starts making losses, no bonuses, no recruitments, attrition, people getting fired etc. By the time i leave they have combined their two floor office into one floor and after merely 2 years they will close their entire India operations.

I come to US to start my masters. The day i land in atlatna, it is officialy announced that there is drought in the whole state. During my stay the nation gets a trillion dollar deficit, their president has the worst ratings ever and they are performing badly in the two wars.

The moment i leave the country to visit back home, a black man swears an oath to become the new president and there is hope all around. While back at home, I am staying in Jharkhand and President's rule is declared there. As soon as i come back in US, the number of people jobless is at an all time high. Companies are firing people left and right and they are fearing it the next great depression.


If Saleem Sinai can say that what happened in India after 15 Aug 1947, he was responsible for it. Just his mere presence had tirggered wars, famines, elections etc. In the same way i can also say that all that has happened after June 1985, it is because I was present and it had to be the way it turned out to be.