i am glad to be sitting by the window. its night and all i can see are dead towns but i am still glad to be sitting by the window with my nose to the wind. the blur of houses, lights and shops take form only to become a blur again as we pass. there must be people here to whom this blur must mean everything. to us, the strangest it stays intangible and strange. one must take foot to feel form. to ones at a distance flitting, nothing changes form. alight, set foot and grasp. can we?
the wind brings the news of the moment. the weak woo the weaker in their quest to become strong. i wonder what makes one weak or strong and decide the weak will never wonder, with the caveat that i might be wrong. more dead towns invite. more wind in my hair and i reach my destination. set foot and take form i remember. i talk to the wind. i tell the blur that the littlest it has changed makes the littlest i have, feel exaggerated. what form must i take i ask? it says stay put and it will forge. i oblige
the wind now blows unabated but it will take a lot to wash over the wrath of the sun and drive the heat out of the traps the living rooms present. the horizon is crimson and a crescent hangs high and proud, the streetlights come on early and grandpa is sitting out on the thinnai. maggie pants a sigh of relief at the breeze and plops near grandpas feet.
my great-grandpa lived close and I can see that house in part ruins in the distance. he is no more but he lives in my memories unscathed by time. we shared a special connection in our addiction to a board-game. we played after breakfast and before lunch or after lunch and before the evening coffee but never after 6 due to some superstition. my great-grandma would assure that her husband is not bored in his ripe old-age from his sitting by ensuring she gathered me from granma’s for a game.
the game was beautifully designed and great-grandpa taught most of my virtues and strategies (they really do have to go hand-in-hand) through it. there are 12 pieces each per player, the objective being to move all of them from ‘home’ to ‘finish’. there are 13 sections of 6 moves to navigate so each piece needs 80 moves to get to finish (78 + 2 needed for start and finish). Of the 13 sections, 10 were common for both players which great-grandpa liked to call the war-zone, he was a big fan of the mahabharata and kept a tattered old book that he read everyday. we played with stones and tamarind seeds. i always chose the seeds. they were smooth and uniform and i liked that.
you get no rewards for finishing 11 with one stuck on its lonesome journey to the end, slaughtered by the opposition repeatedly as they marched to the finish. the strategy must include safety of all 12 pieces moving together – more or less. it was played on two flat and long metal dice so it was important not to get the last piece stuck needing a 1 or 2 for finish, you could play an hour without luck. a piece moving through the unsafe zone always needs backup. sometimes you have to see the big picture and let a piece be lost for a restart if it helps the safety of the others. number-crunching of how much of your dice-work would be lost was important to make that decision. great-grandpa taught priority in decisions more than anything through that game. it was important to see the smaller move in the context of a bigger picture. it of course helped that no piece can be irretrievably lost. the rules of the game, though complex, were friendly.
With my memories burning so bright, i almost forget its twilight. the birds are moving across the sky in flocks. they do seem to be of the same feather. the sun is down but the breeze fights its losing battle against the heat. the sun, unaware of it’s love has charred us black. the night and the wind soothes our sun-loved skins but time and gravity will wear us down. maggie has had enough of all this and wants to go back in for her dinner of kibble. she knows how important it is to work on the task at hand.
there is something wonderful about reading a book under a skylight. maybe it is the teasing aroma of lunch from the kitchen or the chirps and squawks of birds outside. its warm and it will get unbearably hot soon. cold water will never taste so good and a simple quenching can feel like an out-of-body experience. it is a throwback to my days of growing up here – my mind likes to pretend it is, although i cover the length of the house in much fewer strides now and can reach the loft without a ladder and stuff in the attic don’t interest me no more. the wooden beams on this very ceiling taught me to count and the cows in the backyard taught me to chew.
the book is open before me but my eyes flit away from the lines and onto the blinding skylight. there are a few cracks in it. i have no doubt that the 11 grandchildren that have walked this house have played a part. there are a few cracks in the house itself and termites have made some parts their own. the gardens are untended and that has brought a lot more ants and birds than from my childhood. the vicious owl with its fearsome screeching is still present in that hole in the tamarind tree far back. it might not be the same owl but i cant tell. do owls live that long? the tree itself is dying.
we live, we relive as we live. we might be outlived or we may outlive our loved ones but we will die. the things we love will die. the joy we experience in living is defined by death. like the pleasure of cold water on this hot day, one has no purpose without the other.
the joy my grandparents experience today come solely from their 11 grandchildren. that dreadful owl i see now is probably the grandson of the one that terrorized my childhood. this is life and this is how it is meant to be lived as long as the sun behind that skylight stays lit. how did this book about the supernatural get me into all this musing?
an artist of the floating world, kazuo ishiguro – a self-portrait of an artist, told through hazy recollections, drifting in and out of events, people and places across an entire lifetime, heavily marred by a misinterpretation of the self which is ishiguro’s specialty. i’d rate this higher than his ‘the remains of the day’ and ‘never let me go’ – 9.5/10
the hungry tide, amitav ghosh spins anthropology, islands in the sundarbans, rilke’s poetry and mythology into a compelling tale of adventure. you can feel yourself floating through the tide country in a boat, with a crocodile lazing at the banks of a island filled with mangroves, rife with the royal bengal tiger and its fearsome stripes of fire and black and gangetic dolphins swimming sideways spurting sprouts of water on the surface. well researched thesis presented as a work of fiction – 8.5/10
too far to go, john updike – perhaps the best book i’ve read this year, this book was beautiful in the way it wrote of thoughts, the mind and the mundane. on separating from his wife for over 20 years, from a patchy see-saw relationship that blows hot and cold, the man says on the phone to his wife as he checks-into his hotel, “i feel i’ve given birth to a black hole”.
here is another one of my fav parts.
“there are four forces: love, habit, time, and boredom. Love and habit at short range are immensely powerful, but time, lacking a minus charge, accumulates inexorably, and with its brother boredom levels all.”
what i talk about when i talk about running, haruki murakami, 2007 – i thought this was a work of fiction but its a memoir about running sprinkled with mild philosophy. was surprised to know murakami has completed 25 marathons, 1 ultra marathon (60+ miles) and a handful of triathlons in-between all his writing. he portrays running as the charm that keeps his rich water-vein of inspiration for writing alive. good short read if you like his books. 7/10
the war of the worlds, h.g wells – with hg wells’ ability to blend scifi with deteriorating social values, here is another on the lines of the invisible man, time machine and the island of dr. moreau. although science has come a long way since the book was written and we now even have a rover on mars, it doesn’t tarnish the tale much. it can feel a little bit repetitive at times and the references to the english counties and descriptions of how disaster spread from one to another a bit tedious. like the author’s other works i’ve read a bit better than this one. 7.2/10
wilt, tom sharpe – impressionable wife, dull marriage and a dead-end job teaching day release courses to gasfitters, printers and apprentice butchers has wilt scheming to put his wife down a deep shaft, without her consent of course. events take an unpredictable and hilarious course as an american couple, a drunken vicar, an inflatable doll, and a police inspector with the singular intention of seeing wilt behind bars get involved. farce of the highest order 10/10
parthiban kanavu, kalki – has some vague similarities with the count of monte cristo in plot in that there is a banishing, an island, a return in disguise, vengeance and reuniting with the loved one while regaining the crown etc. other than being set in the time of the cholas and the pallavas and with some references thrown in every now and then of that time, this is a simple page turner like a dan brown novel. reading in tamil however is awesome. 6/10
on the road, kerouac – reads more as a high-on-substances travelogue than a novel. the idea of what the book stands for is bigger than the book itself and that is what is keeping it fueled and alive after all these years. the writing is splendid and words rush out and slap, coax, cuddle and kick but it is more of a lather, rinse, repeat of small towns, cities, road, no money, steal cars, hitch rides, con, get drunk, get stoned, bop, jazz, get laid, search for jobs, fail miserably, move on, find everything exotic and find life oh-so-awesome. it could perhaps be one of the most misunderstood books of all time. for a better road novel that holds water to its hype, read lolita. 6.5/10
kafka on the shore, murakami, 2002 – like his other works, there are multiple narratives that converge, ample musical (beethoven’s archduke trio is used as the theme of redemption) and movie references (lot of inspiration from truffaut’s the 400 blows) that are integral to the story but unlike the other works though, here surrealism is used as a metaphor or as an abstract concept that comes across at times as gimmicky. murakami makes it a point to remind us through his protagonists that it is not important that we don’t understand but one must go through the experience nevertheless. the biblical reference to frogs raining from the sky in PTA’s magnolia as divine intervention was used in this book too which was interesting. i had to check which came out first. perhaps the tv series LOST is very very highly inspired by murakami’s depiction of limbo in this book as well. not my favorite murakami (i love the wind-up bird and the recent 1Q84 the best) but still very interesting and immersive. 7.5/10
prometheus, ridley scott, 2012 – good scifi with spaceships and aliens are hard to come by. this was very flawed but fun and entertaining. could have cut down on the gooey horror element. 7.5/10
the passenger, antonioni, 1975 – was thoroughly impressed when i watched 8 years back but remembered near nothing of it except the brilliant white light and the white houses. the re-watch made me love it again. alienation in north africa, sahara desert, barcelona, andalusia shot in a laid-back fashion in blinding white light in places where nothing ever happens. watch it for the visuals and a rare, restrained jack nicholson. 8.2/10
touch of evil, orson welles, 1958 – much as i loved the cinematography and direction, i don’t understand why welles is lauded so much for this as the plot and sub-plot were very loosely tied up. even the technique wasn’t new as it reminded me a lot of ‘the third man’ that came a decade earlier. 7.4/10
moon, duncan jones, 2009 – there are big budget, big effects, sacrificed storyline scifis which form the majority and then movies like moon. this scifi/thriller was an excellent entertainer. sam rockwell reminded me of edward norton (in a good way). directed by duncan jones who also happens to be david bowie’s son. never a dull moment in this thought provoker – 8.4/10
the kid with the bike (le gamin au vélo), 2011 – stellar performance from the boy for a story that could have used a bit more depth in plot as well as characters as it felt like one of stories from a moral science book. good cinematography and stunning performance from the kid make this a good watch still. couldn’t help but feel that this could have been so much better. also felt as if the director was paying homage to truffaut’s the 400 blows. extremely similar plot, similar styles in shots and a climax scene directly lifted from another one of truffaut’s movies which i cant seem to get the name of – 7.2/10
echelon conspiracy, 2009 – every once in a while comes a urge to watch something absolutely stupid and this movie did not disappoint me on that front – 5.0/10
argo, 2012 – ok as a movie, lacklustre as a movie ‘based on a true story’ as it came more as something which was ‘inspired from true events’. the dramatics was definitely from lazy writing than from the CIA files. if there had to have the thriller element, it could have been better written in. 7.1/10
hugo, 2011 – i am very late to the party but glad i turned up. an hour or so into the movie, the main storyline pales down and takes a secondary role and it is the allusions to movies and cultural history of the past that takes centre stage. it was fun unraveling references to jules verne’s, fritz lang’s metropolis and the cabinet of dr caligari. a rare beauty, visually brilliant, missed watching this in 3D. 9/10
the intouchables, 2011 – surprise package of the week. this movie was innovative and fresh in its comedy without pulling cheap laugh gags or being overly melodramatic (the movie is about a tetraplegic) and by sustaining the drama element through out. highly recommended comedy. loved the use of nina simone’s ‘feeling good’ for a paralyzed man paragliding. 8.2/10
a streetcar named desire, elia kazan, 1951 – timeless performance by a young marlon brando. the hero of the movie however is the script that sculpts each character with a flying chisel losing no time which is typical of broadway adaptations. elia kazan seems to have spiced up the play by leaving certain things open to interpritation. excellent classic – 8.3/10
cloud atlas, 2012 – watching cloud atlas is a daunting task. it asks for your every minute of its 2.5 hour runtime. it feels like an epic and rightly so as it spans centuries, involves multitudes of characters, some extremely challenging editing and costumes, special effects and a script that embraces the concept of karma subtly. there is a generous sprinkling of Easter eggs that you will only uncover in your 4th viewing. its hard to absolutely love a movie like this in first viewing but a movie that makes you want to watch it a few more times has already made you love it but only you don’t know it yet – 8.5/10
the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, luis bunuel, 1972 – hilarious and surreal satire on the unsated appetite of 6 people who sit down to dine multiple times throughout the movie but always get interrupted by unreal situations, guaranteed to leave you scratching your head with a grin. charm of the absurd. 7.8/10
naan E, 2012 – if it had stuck to its imaginative comedy, it could have perhaps turned up a whole lot better. the romance/revenge theme was stale. the animation looked dated by atleast a decade. 5.5/10
once upon a time in anatolia, nuri bilge ceylan, turkish, 2011 – set in the anatolian steppes, the first hour and half of the movie is shot entirely with headlights from cars and another good part in lantern light. the movie is an unsolved, make-what-you-want plot, with 90 mins spent searching to exhume the victim and the rest spent developing the characters as ambiguously as possible. the acting was top notch and the script and direction reminiscent of tarkovsky films. at over 180 mins, this is not going to be an easy watch. 7.7/10
mulholland drive – i re-watch mulholland drive every two years or so for no specific reason. in this 5th viewing, i took away a totally new interpretation and i can’t think of any other movie with this much re-watch value. comfort food. 9/10
skyfall, 2012 – the first 15 mins and the last 30 mins were what i was looking for. the in-between was a mishmash of die hard, the dark knight and mission impossible franchise. i don’t mind that bond drinks heineken or that he uses sawed-off shotgun and dynamite but the product placements could have been avoided. about the villain who is lauded as the best bond villain so far, i think it has more to do with the nonchalant villain stereotype that has been made famous by the joker, bane or no country for old men than the role of javier bardem in this movie. bit let down. 7.2/10
the divide, 2011 – grotesque and bleak and not even in a good way. watched in two sittings as it was intolerable and was completed only because of a morbid curiosity to find out what happens anyway. all i was looking for was a fun b-movie and this wasn’t even that. 4.5/10
looper, 2012 – nice sci-fi that refused to be pegged as big budget scifi (Read big effects, bad plot) or a movie about time travel that takes it to preposterous levels. it had a good story and good characters and a time travel that took the one eventuality premise very seriously. it had its share of ‘eh what’ in the rainmaker bit and the telekinesis climax but overall very watchable – 7.5/10
the conversation, francis ford coppola, 1974 – re-watched. made between godfather 1 and godfather 2, this gem is sometimes overlooked. the plot unravels from the perspective of the paranoid harry caul, a private audio surveillance expert with a lofty sense of self (played by gene hackman) and expectedly leads the viewer down erratic paths of interpretation thereby setting up a twist ending. top-notch cinematography and the thrill of solving the mystery along with the protagonist keeps one glued. 8.2/10
taste of cherry, abbas kiarostami, persian, 1997 – a man tired of living wants to kill himself and so goes forth in search of someone who would bury him. His conversation with random people who he hopes will do the task for him form the rest of the movie. the movie traipses around religion, spirituality and existentialism but doesn’t satisfy wholly. the long shots and audio in the foreground with visuals as backdrop technique while intended to make the viewer think, can seem dull and dreary with not enough food for thought. – 7.3/10
ikiru, akira kurosawa, 1952 – i have fascination for reading/watching about lives of the old confronting an approaching death. lynch’s ‘the straight story’, bergman’s ‘autumn sonata’ or ishiguro’s ‘the remains of the day’ and ‘an artist of the floating world’, all approach it differently. ikiru tells the story of a terminally ill man with a dead-end job that makes a change not through a narcissistic bucket list but by creating a marginally better world for the ones who need it. to tell a story like this without sappy sentimentality (not that there is anything wrong with that) is commendable. the camera work through out the movie, especially in the 10 minutes or so of tokyo night life was brilliant. 8.5/10
adaptation – re-watched for the umpteenth time. fun script, super performances by nicolas cage and meryl streep. a narcissistic script writer with a writer’s block, writes himself into his drab script about orchids. – 7.7/10
pizza, 2012 – finally managed to watch this movie and loved every bit of it. vijay sethupathy’s performance was excellent although the supporting cast could have done better. the script and the direction reflected the fun that was had in creating the movie and that is exactly what defines this movie and gives it life. the whole sequence shot in the house in scattered flashlight was genius and kept the tension on. the script gave access to using cliched horror elements without cheating the audience.
django unchained, 2013 – can style, slo mos and soundtrack alone shore up a movie without a strong storyline and script? tarantino almost manages to but the 165 min runtime eventually neutralizes all effort. there was a lot of sam peckinpah in the shotgun kills and sergio leone in the landscape shots and the soundtrack was absolutely beautiful. the usual tarantino wit, though present, was lacking punch (the villagers with the bags on their heads quibbling over where the holes for eyes should be, for example). the performances, though good din’t feel natural because of the quirkiness inherent to tarantino characters. strictly for the fanboys. 7.2/10
les miserables, tom hooper, 2012 – 158 min musical based on alain boublil’s musical based on victor hugo’s novel. the visuals are stunning and the performances, almost every one of them spell-binding. anne hathaway as fantine and hugh jackman as jean valjean were outstanding while sacha baron cohen as thenardier is a proof to the man’s versatility in comedy. bit tough to endure the 30-45 mins on screen in the middle portion of the film if you are not into musicals/19th century plots that rely on characters running into each other repeatedly but sitting through the whole length is very rewarding. there are quite a lot of moments in the film that will endure like the book has endured. i have a urge to sing my review :p – 8.1/10
silver linings playbook – very average tv fare. shocked to see it is nominated for 8 oscars, perhaps i missed something there. started off well enough to hold the attention and for a large part i expected the movie to redeem itself but it simply kept adding more and more holes and unbelievable character behavior to the plot. i got the know after the end of the film that the genre of the film was comedy. must have been a typo. 6.5/10
life of pi, ang lee, 2012 – with great skepticism i avoided this movie for as long as i could. on a dull sunday with nothing to do, i ended up watching it on 3D in a screen nearby. the first 20 minutes were like nails on chalkboard because of the horrible accents and acting but then on i was utterly blown away. i refrain from watching movies that i love as books because there could be nothing equal to one’s own imagination. this movie has equaled and in parts surpassed what i had visualized when i read the book. i kept watching and wondering how did they ever pull this off. the vfx was superlative. the script stays as close to the book as possible for the adventure but the director has left subtle clues on his stand by adding the lotus flower sequence in (lotus flower in the forest in the beginning). the lotus flower with the tooth in the mangrove forest and meerkats sequence could be a pi’s delusion stemming from that initial scene thereby making the atheist stance more supportable but only subtly. glad i watched and din’t give it a pass with my prejudices. 8.2/10
Lincoln, spielberg, 2012 – there are mere actors and then there is DDL who inhabits characters rather than enacting them. for the most part, it felt as if spielberg din’t shoot this film conventionally but time-traveled and shot this from the 19th century. the content of the movie had universal appeal though it was very american and to some extent failed to engage me because i had no appetite for the finer nuances of politics or to history but still it was not dull or boring even for a minute. it would help if you have prior knowledge as the film doesn’t delve deep. 7.6/10
the hustler, robert rossen, 1961 – claustrophobic drama of hustling around straight pool. the film explores talent and character in the context of winning and then questions winning itself. paul newman delivers a convincing performance as fast eddie and the direction is clean and the dialogues crisp with no frills. the b/w photography is brilliant capturing the drama, the pool action, the nighttime, the smoky pool room or the great outdoors in the rare scene when it ventures out. one of my fav 4 newman films along with cool hand luke, butch cassidy and the sting. 8.4/10
brazil, terry gilliam, 1985 – if fellini ever shot that scifi he kept shooting in 8 and a half, it could have turned up like brazil. set in the future with things from the past (literally), the art design of this movie blew me away. this is a funny and dark version of orwell’s 1984 with the usual terry gilliam style of shooting with wide angle lens and odd tilted angles and exhorbitantly detailed sets. if you like fear and loathing and monty python movies, this is a must. watch the 94 min version of it. I ended up with the 142 min director’s cut which had its dull moments. 7.5/10
the master, 2012 – paul thomas anderson’s fascination with cults and how they break out and what sustains them continues. if it was the church of the third revelation in ‘there will be blood’, here it is a cult based on pseudo science inadvertently similar to scientology. the movie, although it looks like a straight-forward drama, is anything but that. philip seymour hoffman, joaquin phoenix and amy adams portray what feel like 3 different dimensions of a single character (much like the freud’s id, ego and superego). the visuals are splendid and the direction masterful. the jonny greenwood soundtrack complements the mood well. both hoffmann and phoenix were phenomenal and totally deserve their nominations. i know daniel day lewis probably has this in the bag but joaquin phoenix as freddie quell was outstanding in a complex role and i hope he gets his due. this is by far my favorite film of 2012 but unfortunately it is not nominated for best picture/director – 9/10
beasts of the southern wild, 2012 – a drama/adventure set in a bayou in louisiana, told from the perspective of a 6 year old facing her fears of responsibility and a harsh nature with storms and floods that she has to fight everyday. the performance of the kid and the dad were phenomenal but the shaky cam was not; it is time this technique is given a burial. it doesn’t take one any close to the action or make a film gritty than it gives one a terrible headache. not an easy watch if strife, death and decay are not your thing. nature isn’t all discovery channel wallpapers and this film beats that point in repeatedly, in creative ways. 8/10
there will be blood, paul thomas anderson, 2007 – re-watched with the wife. having just watched the intriguing ‘the master’ i was craving for more PTA so picked this. watch it for daniel day-lewis, the jonny greenwood soundtrack, gorgeous shots of the american west and splendid character development of the two protagonists. works as a simple psychological drama or as a movie with religion vs capitalism subtext and ends up satisfactory in both. i wish ‘no country for old men’ shared the best picture with this. it would be on my top 10 movies of the decade without a doubt. 9.5/10
rushmore, wes anderson, 1998 – brilliant to boring, many times over in the short span of 90 mins is rushmore. the wes anderson of moonrise kingdom and fantastic mr.fox has his origins in this odd film which challenges the viewers mind by flitting between reality and fantasy. these quick transitions between the real world and wes anderson world create a dissonance in the viewer causing conflict and dissatisfaction. in his recent movies, the story is set in the wes anderson world which mirrors real world but not in its entirety as an awkward sweet fantasy reigns dominant and is consistent throughout the course of the film. maybe he mastered this over time. rushmore is rated highly by wes anderson fans but i find his recent popular movies more palatable. 7.1/10
his girl friday, 1940 – the script was decent and at times witty having been adapted from a play but the style of having multiple people talk at the same time seized being funny after about the first time they did it. maybe the modern sitcom has its roots in comedies like this and it has saturated the comedy receptors or perhaps screwball comedy is just not my thing or maybe some movies simply dont age well. 6.5/10
zero dark thirty – reasonable thriller, good direction, great soundtrack, mediocre performances and absolutely shoddy writing. the movie is supposed to be about maya’s obsession with finding bin laden but we are given little to no background as to why this is or what makes her tick. the characters are ill developed with no exception and what we see is a loose narration capturing discrete events dispersed with a cinematic bombing here and there that you certainly would not have missed reading in the newspapers in the last decade. we are given an american PoV of how this might be closure and for a large part the one-sidedness of storytelling makes it comes across as propaganda. 7/10
amour – excruciatingly slow and painful watch as it trudged on towards its predictable, painful end. must every movie that portrays suffering be labelled great? the lead performances were both outstanding portraying senility but its unfortunate it was not put to good use. there are some outstanding films on similar subjects of terminal illness and senility that are actually watchable and thought-provoking. hanake is no bergman and his premise rings hollow. (as i write this, it has won the best foreign film.) 7/10
dead man’s shoes, 2004 – stylish and violent retribution in the english countryside set to some beautiful acoustic guitar folk music. although violence is one of the main themes, this movie doesn’t actually glorify violence. the story unwinds through flashbacks gently through the length of the film making you question the proportion of the payback until what actually happened is revealed close to the climax. highly recommended brit flick. the soundtrack is worth a listen separately as well (calexico, smog, adem etc. and closes with m.ward’s dead man) – 8/10
the secret world of arriety, yonebayashi/miyazaki, 2010 – another gem from studio ghibli without the “epicness” of a ‘spirited away’. unlike other classics like spirited away, princess mononoke etc., this is not directed by miyazaki but the script is his. murakami explored little people who cause trouble in 1Q84 but here little people are shown as ‘borrowers’ from our world. there is an abundance of imagination, tastefully crafted frames, lovable characters and sound mixing for an immersive experience. the experience however demanded more depth in the plot which could have used more work for the relatively saggy middle portion of the movie. worth a watch but there are a lot of better works by studio ghibli and miyazaki. 7.5/10
pan’s labyrinth, 2006 – a child fantasizes an escape from the civil war torn spain, submissive mother and a ruthless step-father with the help of a faun. one of my favorite films of the genre as it never slips totally into the unreal. judicial use of cgi,captivating frames of the woods and the underworld with superlative performances from all the main characters and excellent direction makes this a movie i’ll keep coming back to. 8.5/10
wreck it ralph, 2012 – tribute to video games from the arcade classics to modern FPS, it was fun recognizing characters from mario, sonic the hedgehog, pacman, street fighter etc. the tribute did not end with the characters but also had references to boss levels, secret levels, glitches built right into the plot as integral elements. the plot even had a secondary mission and a primary mission built into its structure. insert coins and have an excellent trip down memory lane. – 8.1/10
sunshine, danny boyle, 2007 – fits somewhere between prometheus and alien. the summary read ‘a team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite a dying sun’. i felt there were more chances of a plot like this ending up as a dud but i was pleasantly surprised. the visuals were stunning, the soundtrack chilling and the performances perfect. one of boyle’s best along with trainspotting and 28 days later. worth a watch if you love scifi thrillers and their lovable flaws. 7.6/10
barton fink, coen brothers, 1991 – the script was too smart to the extent of being too full of itself. there are so many interpretations and possibilities that you can spend days ruminating and then re-watching. you can interpret it as an allegory, self-reference or as straight-forward angst against hollywood or all of the above. i could see this as being an inspiration for movies like adaptation and mulholland drive. claustrophobic camera and sublime performances from pretty much everyone adds to the script. lots of comedy in between is an added bonus. probably my most fav coen brothers film at this point. 9.5/10
paris, texas, wim wenders, 1981 – visually the best film set in America i’ve seen although the director and production company are german (lynch’s ‘the straight story’ comes close). this is slow, moody and gorgeous. there isn’t much in terms of a story but even the thinnest of storylines can be propped up by subtleties of character and just visuals. much of the character development was smartly done with unspoken dialogue. if you like films of terrence malick, this is a must watch. 9.0/10
la strada, fellini, 1954 – a film about simple people in a traveling circus that clown about, quarrel, live in filth and struggle to make ends meet. must there be a tragedy set in squalor? ( is this where director bala draws his inspiration from?) despite my misgivings about the misery running deep like rabbit holes, this is a gritty film and has more than a bunch of laughs and lovable characters in zampano and gelsomina who seem to have been built for their respective roles. not my favorite fellini film but worth a watch. 7.7/10
2001, a space odyssey – it was time for a re-watch. missed the apes, the mission to jupiter, the moon, the monolith and of course HAL. spent most of this time wondering about how certain shots were executed especially the zero gravity and space scenes. the last 30 minutes were bizarre as ever as always and precipitating a new interpretation each time. benchmark for any movie aspiring to be a good scifi. 9.5/10
withnail & i, bruce robinson, 1987 – bit hard to classify this as comedy although quite a few scenes in the first hour will make you break into laughter. the movie then slowly turns into a character study, a drama without a plot but a dramatic end. the similarities with my favorite brit sitcom peep show are extensive. primed for laughs, you expect the romp to continue but then comes the unexpected sadness, not tragedy of epic proportions but a mild, mellow sadness, such as that exists in life itself. the problem though is that there is almost no plot and the film survives solely on its smart and humorous script. 7.4/10
die hard – a palate cleanser was of absolute necessity and it was no wonder i was craving to watch die hard – fun, well-made, beat-up-the-bad-guy action movie with sardonic one-liners and thrills aplenty. comfort food that is still fun. yippie ki-yay! 8.1/10
the perks of being a wallflower, stephen chbosky, 2012 – there was a bit of worry that this might be one of those teen rom-coms but it wasn’t and i was glad. its a teen coming of age drama set in the caustic high-school environs of the american suburbs. the script was good with the main characters all getting enough screen time for their own story arcs that sit well in the overall theme of chronic isolation. good soundtrack based on tracks from the 70-80s and a strict adherence to the book shore up the movie. one thing that irked me a bit was that for kids who seemingly having a good taste in music (the smiths, nick drake, dexys), they took the whole movie to identify david bowie’s heroes! its ‘the breakfast club’ of our times – 7.8/10
tokyo story, yasujiro ozu, 1953 – an ageing couple from serene onomichi decide to visit their children and grandchildren in bustling tokyo. this is about as straight-forward and unassuming one can get to put across a profound point. none of the characters are used as props to drive home the desolation faced by the old couple. though it might look like the couple are wronged by their children on the outset, there is more to it if you observe the subtle tint of character ozu portrays on them to convey how their parenting might have been. everything about this movie is undramatic and subtle like bergman’s wild strawberries and unlike say, kurosawa’s ikiru which is very similar and a masterpiece in its own right but kurosawa’s tremendous style sometimes overshadows the storyline. 9/10
red, 2010 – plot from a penny novelette, morgan freeman for the posters, bruce willis for the stereotype saving grace, john malkovich with desperate measures and a hotchpotch of helen mirren, tv movie cliches, guns and explosions. 5.5/10
iron man 3, 2013 – the climax was imaginative and ben kingsley as mandarin was funny but that was all there was to it. the 3D technology was horrible in some segments where the proportion of a chopper close to the eye and people in the ruins a mile away were totally off. this persisted for quite a few scenes and was very distracting (in IMAX 3D). a movie like iron man has to be fun and we have had enough of the introspecting superhero in nolan’s dark knight trilogy and this whole faux seriousness has lost its novelty. ones expecting another avengers or the first iron man movie might be disappointed. wafer-thin plot and not enough wit. 6.3/10
aaranya kaandam, thiagarajan kumararaja, 2011- in terms of breaking the mold, this is by far the best tamil film i’ve seen in recent times. i feel bad for not supporting it in the theaters, the producer made a big loss and we might not see another film like this. the script is inspired by movies like trainspotting, pulp fiction or lock stock, the theme music with grand piano chords, chimes and sad violin was a bit too similar to wong kar wai’s ‘in the mood for love’ but that’s all forgivable because the film has made them its own without appearing too unoriginal. there is quite a bit of old ilayaraja music played over fm radio recorded as part of ambient noises in most of the first half of the film which added a lot of oomph.
the dialogues were sharp and laced with wit and the characters with names like kodukapuli, sappai, subbu, singa perumal, pasupathy were every bit unique in their thought and action as their names. the camera was extremely experimental with a lot of aronofsky and danny boyle influence. the acting must have lacked quite a bit but the director made up for it smartly with his setting and angles. the plot unravels like a game of chess with each character trying to outwit the other and ends quite fittingly.
the version i watched was short by 40 mins with expletives beeped and obscenities chopped from the actual runtime which is pretty bad but unfortunately it was the only good print i could find. we might never see a proper DVD release either. it saddens me that the movie did not click with the audience when trash like mankatha or billa are received well. 8.5/10
cool hand luke, 1967 – rewatched after almost 5 years. the last time was turbulent and this movie back then meant a lot and still does. the line “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand” was a life-changer. there are several iconic scenes i love – the drunk, grinning paul newman after he has cut the heads off parking meters, the warden saying “what we got here is failure to communicate” (made immortal by guns n’ roses using it in the opening of their song ‘civil war’), the scene where paul newman quips “i can eat fifty eggs” and the wager that follows, and the one with him playing plastic jesus on the banjo and the climax in the empty church and his conversation with an absent god. there are thematic similarities between cool hand luke and one flew over the cuckoo’s nest in that one reminds you of the other. definitely worth a watch if you like ‘man against the system’ type movies. 8.3/10
cuz something is happening,
and you dont know what it is.
do you, mr. jones?
i will not tell you the solution. i wish for you to arrive at it.
dont unwind if you are not wound; you might end up wound
anxious you might lose track of the many little vessels you have transferred it to, afraid of the big vessel that might topple.
of the 800 odd days, why did it have to be this day? did the thought kick its way out as you woke up? had you contemplated it the night before? maybe the whole week? a decision such as this does not pop into one’s head just as he is eating his breakfast. or maybe it did, how would one know. maybe you had the poison in the cupboard all along passing days in contemplation to see which one of them will push you to do it. maybe having bought it and having it within reach had you putting your foot through the door. the dissonance of wanting to live and having bought that which will end it, made you seek consonance in death? why quibble over the day, perhaps you were dead the day you bought it.
your thoughts and ideals can only be as rich as the language you think in
bleak house, charles dickens, 1853 – a satirical take on the english legal system that is built in its entirity only to satisfy its own interests, this book is still relevant in most of the british colonies which inherited the british judicial system. a horde of distinct characters that stand up and contrast each other in their behaviour, class, ways, means and even language bring the plot to life and keep the reader interested with the various sub-plots centered around the main theme of rot that eats away into the defendants’ souls as they wait for justice from the big wheel of the establishment that sucks them dry. with plot, relevance and characters so rich, the 1000 pages (my biggest book) were not a big hurdle to surpass. dickens kneads, spins, knots and swirls the english language as he sees fit. oh the humour, did i mention the humour? with a title like ‘bleak house’, i was surprised how witty most of the first half was. 9.5/10
norwegeian wood, haruki murakami, 1987 – this is a straight-up fiction sans the usual surrealism and fantasy of murakami. the usual themes of loss, isolation, romance, revolution, friendships are adequately represented while death is a central theme that acts as a catalyst for character transformation through out the book. the cover of the book and also the movie poster present it as a romantic piece of work, which while being true, does not do justice to the other themes. there is more romance with the concept of loss in this book than there is romance between people. one of my biggest problems with this book and with murakami in general is that his characters dont feel unique either between books or even within the same book. this works to his advantage in a surreal fiction but in something straight-forward as this, its a major letdown. 7.8/10
foma gordeyev, maxim gorky, 1899 – read this in tamil. i found the translation poor and the book a major letdown because of that. sometimes i wonder if tamil as a language is meant for expressing philosophical thoughts and ideas. the story in itself was ok but thats hardly what you are looking for in reading russian fiction from its golden period. 5.0/10
1Q84, haruki murakami, 2011 – this is the dreamy, surreal, seemingly pointless murakami i’ve grown to love from the wind-up bird chronicle. after finishing the 1000 pages, you still feel famished to devour more of this world, this world of the two moons. 9.0/10
dandelion wine, ray bradbury, 1957 – this is the kind of book i have always wanted to write. the author captures the essense of growing up, contemplating the meaning of life as a 10 year old, of grandma’s feasts, of summer lawns, apple trees, new tennis shoes, of ice-creams and soda fountains, fireflies, of the lovable quirky neighbours and of their death and lives. each day of summer is bottled up like wine from the dandelions in the yard. nothing is left when the summer is over but a batch of bottles in the cellar, one for each day of summer, each numbered, seemingly alike but distinct like snow flakes. 8.9/10
katha upanishad, 5th century bce – death and rot has been a central theme in all the books i read this time, so what better way to finish it off than with a dialogue with yama, the god of death. the translation by s. radhakrishnan is fabulous and provides possible references of these scriptures in buddhism and also of other famous works that came much later. i was surprised to learn that the chariot allegory of senses as the horses, the intellect as the driver and the mind as the reins and the self as the passenger has been used by plato as well. it feels a little repetetive in english probably because we read it as a prose but in sanskrit it was perhaps intended as poetry. lovely read but pick up a good translation – 8.5/10
i could see the world through this glass. this clear glass that once showed me others is now coated and all it mirrors now is me.
a gigantic pointless day
desire, for hire, would tire a shire – joyce
remembered this line from finnegan’s wake randomly today and couldn’t stop smiling
everything is magic when reason takes a backseat
when she asked him who do you write these for, he told her these were written for the bin. these snippets were to belong to one coherent tale but what coherence can there be when his life itself lacked it. so here they are, like floating shreds of torn sheets, devoid of all relevance. if the bits were coalesced they would still lack cohesion for such is life.
he could never see the finish line and made it a habit to run himself tired and always had to be told he had won as he was face down and fainting
open your mouth and speak they say, i know a man who would disagree. he was once asked to open his mouth wide by his dentist and it got stuck. he has had his mouth wide open since, with his tongue sticking out and a nice white cavity-less set of teeth exposed for all to see wherever he went. the good thing about it though is that no one can say open your mouth and speak to him as it would be redundant
like oil and water but ought to be oil on canvas
you hear prejudice, you know where it comes from and you say nothing. you hear bigotry, you see it is to stir a reaction and is not precisely meant to be so, you say nothing. you sniff jealousy, you isolate its source, you dont feel the need to react. you pin random acts of violence, radical viewpoints, staunch beliefs to upbringing, misinformation, misleading and the gaps in well-being. to you all vices have a reason and the reason never eludes you, for reasoning is your forte.
of feudal systems, communism, capitalism, you see it, you see why it is, you have nothing better to install in its place. you see the pitfalls in your own methods. you realize these vices are an integral part of ‘progress’ if there can be any. you can only do one thing. let things be. so many conflicting things to be said that its better to be saying nothing at all. is this the real holier than thou way or is this being in denial and calling yourself an existentialist?
saw one big swarm of locusts rise from the thicket late last evening. they emerged at almost a few thousands per second and kept doing so for about 30 mins. the sound of their wings brushing the bushes as they rose sounded like the pitter-patter of rain on leaves. the sky in twilight with a full moon in the corner was filled for as high as one could see. the swarm over the village resembled angry bees from a disturbed town-sized beehive. grandpa says they signify the end of rains. when i grew up as a kid here, i remember a tribe which has since gone extinct that used to eat locusts (apparantly common in several cultures). the rice grains have been dipped overnight in a tank of water. by tonight they will germinate and tomorrow they will be sown. until then there is a book to read and all india radio for company. am listening to the shortwave radio and deluding myself to have gone back in time.
of aliens discovering our remains, when we are extinct
“And when they found our shadows
Grouped around the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death
No tears to cry no feelings left
This species has amused itself to death”
its easier to move in fiction where facts aren’t suffocating
am not here to tell anyone how to live their lives. how can i, when i myself dont have a clue how to live mine. you think you have a clue? please keep it to yourself and go mumbling ‘my precious’ because that’s exactly what it might do to you. a last cry of ‘precious’ perhaps beckons you as you fall over the abyss. i did not ask your advice, now dont ask for mine. i dont think morals are for morons, so please dont think morons are ones that dont have morals and call me one.
while the kindle is a good device to own, i have my reasons to have not bought one for myself yet. i like the feel of holding a book, the texture and smell of paper,the character of the book, the covers, the way each one weighs different and how the typeset varies between books and prints. that said, there are somethings that a kindle offers which i totally love. the dictionary integration is pretty awesome. how often do you find yourself wanting to look up a word while reading? the ability to annotate in terms of highlighting, bookmarking and taking notes is something which is nice on the kindle and the recent ones also have the ability to share them with other users on the net.
to fill the gap for users like me that dont want to own the kindle but would like some of the kindle features, it might make sense if there was an accessory which worked like handheld OCR device (preferably in the shape of a highlighter pen) that has a small screen for the dictionary function. if this device can also allow highlighting text for sharing on a computer via wifi or usb (i have often wanted to quote from a book but have had to type the whole thing down), it would be very nifty.
amazon seems to have launched a social network for kindle users for recommending books, sharing notes, discuss books etc., a device such as this will only improve their user base.
in cold blood, truman capote, 1966 – everything about this was impeccable. the documenting of events, portrayal of the killers, the victims, the people, the law. the way capote distances himself from the events and does a role purely as someone documenting events is what made this so interesting. it is very human in the way minor events of the day of the killing were captured that it makes you a witness to the slayings. 8.5/10
hullaballoo at the guava orchard, kiran desai, 1998 – weak and light. not enough subject matter to fill up a novel. could have and should have been a short story. 6.5/10
perdido street station, china mieville, 2000 – too much fantasy and soft-sci and too less hard-sci for my taste. could have easily been 200 pages lesser. needed a lot of editing to make this tight and interesting. unbelievable imagination though and the writing was top class for a scifi. 7.2/10
the razors edge, somerset maugham, 1944 – maugham is one of my favorite writers and he doesnt let me down in this. not as heavy as of human bondage and not as light in terms of content as cakes and ale but somewhere in between. maugham’s exceptional observational powers of human behavior and his ability to put it down on paper without prejudices made this a breezy read. revived my interest in the upanishads. 8.7/10
the idiot, fyodor dostoevsky, 1868 – i was highly impressed by dostevsky’s crime and punishment and the way in which he could write from the mind of the protagonist the way woolf does. i was a bit let down in the beginning that the style in this was not the same but the ideas and content more than made up for that and proved his versatility as a writer. left me lost in thought for over a month. very few books i rate 10. if this cant get one, none can. 10/10
never let me go, kazuo ishiguro, 2005 – impressed by the remains of the day, i chose this. was not let down but found the book a little too visually hollywood-ish with the fade away while the narrator closes types oscar ending. very very impressive nevertheless. 8.0/10
there were a couple of poor north indian construction/masonry workers in the queue ahead of me. i had no plans of catching a movie. i was pulled in by the hype of mankatha only in terms of the number of ads on sun network channels. the guy ahead had two hundred rupee notes folded in four. he and his friend wanted to watch salman khan’s bodyguard. the woman in the counter said they had to pay 560 for two tickets. they did not understand english and did not have that kind of money to spend on entertainment. they tried to see if there was something cheaper they could afford but there was nothing and they moved away embarassed pretending they received a call. i wished i could pay for them but the thought came much later and i got my tickets and moved away. the movie i saw was intolerable and me and my friend skipped it and got out around the half way stage. i wish i had paid for them so they were entertained before another week of tireless physical labour.
the movie ticket prices have become highly unaffordable with the multiplexes pushing the individual movie screen theaters out of business. where are the 100 Rs. movie tkts?
they come in twos on bikes with the slick riding frontman and a swift handed pillion rider snatching objects ranging from briefcases, handbags, cellphones from pedestrians and most of all gold jewelry right off the necks of unsuspecting women. the action is completed with such well-oiled smoothness that one hardly recognizes what happened before the motorbike flees the scene leaving a shocked victim stroking the neck devoid of the ornament.
in this instance, the manoeuvre has a glitch, the frontman hit a slippery bit of asphalt after the snatching was done owing to the monsoon rains and the fast spinning wheels slipped with the bike dragging the pillion rider a good 30 feet before trapping him under as the rider fled without a scratch. the trapped robber suffered severe bruises all over his left side and was presumably in severe shock.
it is quite possible that in this case, the victim, a woman in her early 50s realized what happened and screamed earlier than the rider expected and that lead to him panicking leading to the crash. that the incident was carried out with such nerve in broad daylight in a crowded market did not help matters either. a crowd gathered quickly around the bike and thrashed the snatcher with their fists, footwear and kicks. it is impossible for the man to have even recovered from the accident which he survived barely.
he was beaten to a point where he was barely conscious, dragged to the corner in the street and left there without water until the law took over. he was visibly shivering, curled up into a ball and bleeding all over. it is impossible to understand who is the victim and which is the crime when the punishment is out of proportion.