Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Genius, Ridiculous

So, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

They're a little bit ridiculous, and watching them play, you really have to think that God created them differently. That they have a special talent. How else can one explain the absolute, crushing superiority that both men enjoy in their respective sports? Sure, they work hard, have great work ethic, have dedicated their life to this. But I'm sure atleast one of the pursuing pack has as much, if not more, hardworking dedication to the sport. And yes, these guys have the drive to succeed, they want to win more than anything and it never gets very boring for them to continue to win, but again, there must be other professionals who're just tired of losing and are as driven to win, if not more.

Michael Schumacher used to be a part of this pantheon, but he's retired now. He is truly legendary in that his achievements are in past, and with time they will acquire the patina of awed wonder. Tiger and Roger are still on their paths, their stories are not yet complete. But with their forms of late, it is hard to even conceive of anyone defeating them.

Their friendship is something wonderful to us mere mortals. Its almost like a competition, and we, the public, lap up this camaraderie between our modern gods.

Anyhow, I don't really have a point, except to say that these men? Have got to be differently blessed.

Monday, January 29, 2007


To this post.

The whole Celebrity Big Brother fracas has resulted in loads of editorials being written about the racism, discrimination et al. Most of these op-eds, from what I've read, have chosen to berate the Indian government and society for an over the top reaction. Many have drawn parallels between the intrinsic caste-ist behaviour of Indian society and racism of the kind that was drawn attention to by Jane Goody's conduct. The implication has been that as a society, India is ill-equipped to cast stones, given its own propensity for discrimination based on caste. I think that this is rather missing the point.

What these people seem to be arguing is that somehow Jane Goody's crimes (such as they were) are mitigated because India is so deeply racist. While the episode is as good a time as any to draw attention to our own shortcomings, I don't understand what the purpose of contrasting the ills of our society to the wondrous (or not, depending on the editorial) qualities of Britain's are. We have a lot of work to do, yes, but the point of this whole episode is to showcase that so do others. It is ultimately irrelevant that India is racist; this story is about Britain's racism, about Britain's prejudices. Lets not cloud the issue, or give it a pass, simply because we as a society also have many many things to repair.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ze Nominations Le Oscar

So, the big one, then. The grand-daddy of all award shows, complete with whining and campaigning and bullshitting and cattiness. Here are the nominees:

Best Picture
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Muahahahaha. No Dreamgirls. That in itself makes me love the Academy this year. I've only seen 3 of the movies on this list (with the exceptions being The Queen and Letters from Iwo Jima). Wide-open category - a couple of days ago, I would've said Babel was the front-runner (if only just) but Little Miss Sunshine's PGA award has muddled up the waters even more. Letters is a surprising and extremely deserving nominee, if the end-of-year lists are anything to go by. Its also surprising to me that United 93 didn't get nominated, but I suppose it lost momentum after its early Critics Circle wins.

Best Animated Film
Happy Feet
Monster House

Absolutely no surprises here. I think the competition is between Happy Feet and Cars, with Monster House the outside bet. That said, I can't see anyone upsetting the might of Pixar.

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O'Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whittaker, The Last King of Scotland

Two major issues with this list: A) Leo's nom for Blood Diamond, I mean hel-lo. and B) I really really wish the Academy had been less predictable and not nominated Will Smith. Sacha Baron Cohen should've been on that list. However, props for finally nominating Ryan Gosling.

Best Actress
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

I suppose the nomination for Meryl Streep was unavoidable - she was definitely the best part of the movie for me, the only thing that made it tolerable. But it was such a horrible film that I wish it didn't exist.

Best Director
Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood)
The Queen (Stephen Frears)
United 93 (Paul Greengrass)

Again, no Bill Condon. Yes! Also Paul Greengrass gets nominated at the expense of the Little Miss Sunshine duo.

Achievement in Art Direction
Dreamgirls, The Good Shepherd, Pan's Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and The Prestige.

Honestly, having seen stills of Pan's Labyrinth, I can't see how it will not win.

Best Cinematography
The Black Dahlia (Vilmos Zsigmond), Children of Men (Emmanuel Lubezki), The Illusionist (Dick Pope), Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Navarro), and The Prestige (Wally Pfister)

See Above. Though I absolutely loved The Prestige.

Best Documentary
Deliver Us from Evil, An Inconvenient Truth, Iraq in Fragments, Jesus Camp, and My Country, My Country

I have, despite my best efforts, seen precisely one of these films...

Best Documentary Short Subject
The Blood of Yingzhou District, Recycled Live, Rehearsing a Dream, Two Hands.

... and none of these.

Best Editing
Babel, Blood Diamond, Children of Men, The Departed, United 93

Blood Diamond?

Best Foreign Language Film
After the Wedding (Denmark), Days of Glory (Algeria), The Lives of Others (Germany), Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico) Water (Canada)

For me, the biggest snob of these awards: No nomination for Volver, thus shutting out Almodovar.

Original Score
"Babel" (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Gustavo
"The Good German" (Warner Bros.) Thomas Newman
"Notes on a Scandal" (Fox Searchlight) Philip Glass
"Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) Javier Navarrete
"The Queen" (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Alexandre Desplat

I adore the Babel score.

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Walhberg, The Departed

Alan Arkin everybody! Also, yay Mark Wahlberg. And yay for NOT nominating Brad Pitt.

Best Supporting Actress
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Fabulously happy with Rinko Kakuchi and Adriana Barraza's nominations.

Best original scripts
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Um no problems here...

Best adapted scripts
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

... Or here. I hope Children of Men wins, though The Departed is a lesson in how to do a remake.

All in all, I'm actually pretty pleased with this list. Though I would've liked the Academy to be more adventurous, it never is, and hence films like Children of Men and The Prestige get shut out.

Oh, the Razzie nominations:

Worst Picture

Basic Instinct 2 (a.k.a. Basically, It Stinks, Too) -- Sony/Columbia --- Hee!!!!
Bloodrayne -- Romar Entertainment
Lady In The Water -- Warner Bros.
Little Man -- Sony/Revolution
Wicker Man -- Warner Bros.

Worst Actor
Tim Allen -- The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, The Shaggy Dog and Zoom
Nicolas Cage -- Wicker Man
Larry, The Cable Guy (Dan Whitney) -- Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector
Rob Schneider -- The Benchwarmers and Little Man
Marlon Wayans & Shawn Wayans -- Little Man

Worst Actress
Hilary Duff & Haylie Duff -- Material Girls
Lindsay Lohan -- Just My Luck
Kristanna Loken -- Bloodrayne
Jessica Simpson -- Employee Of The Month
Sharon Stone -- Basically It Stinks, Too

Worst Supporting Actor
Danny DeVito -- Deck The Halls
Ben Kingsley -- Bloodrayne
M. Night Shyamalan -- Lady In The Water
Martin Short -- Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
David Thewlis -- Basically, It Stinks, Too! and The Omen

Worst Supporting Actress
Kate Bosworth -- Superman Returns
Kristin Chenoweth -- Deck The Halls, Pink Panther and RV
Carmen Electra -- Date Movie and Scary Movie 4
Jenny McCarthy -- John Tucker Must Die
Michelle Rodriguez -- Bloodrayne

Worst Screen Couple
Tim Allen & Martin Short -- Santa Clause 3
Nicolas Cage & His Bear Suit -- Wicker Man
Hilary & Haylie Duff -- Material Girls
Sharon Stone's Lop-Sided Breasts -- Basically, It Stinks, Too
Shawn Wayans & Kerry Washington -- Little Man
Shawn Wayans & Marlon Wayans -- Little Man

Worst Remake or Rip-Off
Little Man -- (Rip-off of the 1954 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Baby Buggy Bunny")
Pink Panther -- Sony/Columbia
Poseidon -- Warner Bros.
The Shaggy Dog Story -- Disney
Wicker Man -- Warner Bros.

Worst Prequel or Sequel
Basically, It Stinks, Too -- Sony/Columbia
Big Momma's House 2 -- Fox
Garfield 2: A Tail Of Two Kitties -- Warner Bros.
Santa Clause 3 -- Disney
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning -- New Line

Worst Director
Uwe Boll -- Bloodrayne
Michael Caton-Jones -- Basic Instinct 2
Ron Howard -- The Da Vinci Code
M. Night Shyamalan -- Lady In The Water
Keenan Ivory Wayans -- Little Man

Worst Screenplay
Basically, It Stinks, Too -- Screenplay by Leora Barish & Henry Bean -- Based on Characters Created by Joe Eszterhas
Bloodrayne -- Screenplay by Guinevere Turner, Based on the Video Game
Lady In The Water -- Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Little Man -- Written by Keenan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans
Wicker Man -- Screenplay Adapted by Neil LaBute from a Screenplay by Anthony Schaffer

Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment -- (New Category!)
Deck The Halls -- Fox
Garfield 2: A Tail Of Two Kitties -- Fox
RV -- Sony/Columbia
Santa Clause 3 -- Disney
The Shaggy Dog -- Disney

Basically, yay. Though I think Uwe Boll should be given a category of his own now. And thank the Lord that Kate Bosworth was nominated. Ugh, Lois Lane indeed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

TV Nanny, par excellence

So, AXN has been banned from Indian airwaves for 2 months for daring to telecast some claptrap called Sexiest TV Advertisements. Let's ignore the fact that this show would've been on late at night. Lets also ignore the limited TRPs an English-language channel gets. Forget even that AXN is possibly one of the braver TV channels on here in India, which screens [heavily censored] versions of Nip/Tuck, and some other excellent dramas, including 24, House and Numbers. To avoid any potential conflict with the government, Star World has decided to cease broadcasting Baywatch and Baywatch Hawaii immediately. None of this is important. What is important is that once again, our government feels the need to protect its citizens from the evils of Western programming. Because, of course, watching semi-nude women prance around is tantamount to incitement and leads to the wholesale degradation of moral values.

I don't understand why its obscene to see sexy adverts. I don't understand why its offensive to our politicians. I don't understand why this is not OK, but its OK to show videos of someone being hanged, and killed all over the news channels, and show them 24/7. I'm not saying that the govt should've legislated against these channels, or banned the video. But they left it to the discretion of the management, and why can't they leave this stuff to programming heads as well?

What really annoys me is how all of this interventionism passes under the radar. There will be a report in the papers, but by and large this is ignored. A few months ago, movies had to be re-edited and censored to pass inspection from the CBFC, again, before being telecast. Any films rated 'A' (Adult) was banned from being shown. HBO routinely censors its award-winning shows, like Deadwood and Rome. Then, we have situations where someone makes a jokey video about Mahatma Gandhi. The point isn't whether the video was in bad taste or not. The fact that the Ministry felt the need to get involved is the issue here. A video which would've been largely overlooked by the general populace became the you-tube hit of the moment only because the Ministry created such a big ruckus around it. When is all of this going to stop? When will our govt realise that as adults, as a functioning democracy and as a people who choose their own government, we do not need supervision in what to watch on television? Sometimes, people really are capable of making these decisions themselves. I know, shocker.

And then there are instances where political incorrectness on prime time television has been creating such a massive furor in the US and UK. I'm referring to the backstage Grey's Anatomy drama, which dates back to October, where Isaiah Washington, who essays the part of Burke, referred to his co-star as a f*****. The whole thing blew up again at the Golden Globes, where Grey's won Best Drama. IW is on record as saying it "Never Happened" and then TR Knight, whose coming out was precipitated by the October fracas, goes on Ellen to say it did, and that "Everyone heard it".The sad part is the way the whole issue has been mis-handled to this degree. With a creator who goes on about diversity on her show, both Shonda Rhimes and ABC are very responsible for the mess that exists right now. In any case, the slur is unforgivable, definitely on par with calling someone an N-word, or a P***. Which leads me nicely into the second show creating waves of the wrong kind - Celebrity Big Brother with its on-set shenanigans involving actress Shilpa Shetty and other residents of the house. Having watched a few of the videos, I can say that racially motivated or not, Shilpa was attacked, and if all it takes is a few other issues to remove the veneer of multiculturalism and descend to name-calling that utilizes racist epithets, then these people (both IW and CBB "celebrities") are in their essences homophobic, and racist.

All that remains is for the networks in question (ABC and Channel 4) to wake up and do something. Such behaviour must be marked out as unacceptable. At this point, it doesn't matter what the intent or motivation of the people using these words were. Both the situations have exploded into a comment on their respective societies, and must be addressed. The networks need to get their heads out of their asses and realise that not all publicity is good publicity. It doesn't matter if IW's insults were more about Patrick Dempsey than TR Knight. It doesn't matter if Shilpa Shetty hasn't been "overtly abused" as the channel now seems to be saying.

Oh, and the very idea that TR and Shilpa have somehow brought this upon themselves by being, I don't know, gay and Indian respectively, is outrageous. I will never look at Germaine Greer the same way again - I didn't know Germaine, that there were some forms of equality more important than others. And USA Today should take a good, long look at themselves and how they choose to portray things.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Living History

On Tuesday, 16.01.2007, I had the privilege of watching two of the greatest living (Jazz) musicians, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, live in concert.

The concert was organised by the American Centre, held at Siri Fort in New Delhi and was marked by the sort of mismanagement that seems to be a trademark of all events at Siri Fort. It started over an hour late, passes were over-issued and atleast a thousand people were turned away at the gate after having queued up for well over an hour. I would've been one of those people, if I had not found a friend near the front of the queue and joined her. I had NO idea Delhi had that many Jazz enthusiasts.

As it turned out, the concert was well worth the trouble. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to listen to these guys, so influential in the history of music, play live. I am admittedly a jazz newbie, in so far as even though I love the music, I haven't been driven to find out more about it - its origin, its history. However this concert changed all that for me, and (totally coincidentally) I happen to be reading Eric Hobsbawm's Uncommon People as of now. The combination of the book and the concert has led me to read more about Jazz and its beginnings, and what I've found out has made me love the genre even more.

Hobsbawm's incredibly well-written book (much like his other, more political, books) traces the history of Jazz from the 1920s social rebellion to Sidney Bechet, through to Ella Fitzgerald and the decline of Jazz to Miles Davis and its resurrection in the 1960s/1970s. Jazz, especially Hobsbawm's take on it, has a very inspiring story behind it, given its roots in the Civil Rights Movement, and its status as music of oppressed peoples, for lack of a better word.

All music post Jazz owes a very big debt to it. Without Jazz, there would be no Hip-hop, and even rock would sound incredibly different. Thus to see such practitioners as Hancock and Shorter in their skin was a surreal but humbling experience.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Globes

*insert obligatory "globe" joke here*

Now that I've got that out of the way, here is the list of winners:
Best Television Series - Drama
Big Love
Grey's Anatomy

Best Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives)
America Ferrera (Ugly Betty)
Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (New Adventures of Old Christine)
Mary Louise Parker (Weeds)

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Desperate Housewives
The Office
Ugly Betty

Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)

Zach Braff (Scrubs)
Steve Carell (The Office)
Jason Lee (My Name is Earl)
Tony Shalhoub (Monk)

Best Mini-Series or TV Movie
Bleak House
Broken Trail
Elizabeth I

Mrs. Harris
Prime Suspect: The Final Act

Best Actor in a Television Series
Patrick Dempsey (Grey's Anatomy)
Michael C. Hall (Dexter)
Hugh Laurie (House)
Bill Paxton (Big Love)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)

Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or Movie
Emily Blunt (Gideon's Daughter)
Toni Collette (Tsunami, the Aftermath)
Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy)
Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)
Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds)

Best Actress in a Television Series
Patricia Arquette (Medium)
Edie Falco (The Sopranos)
Evangeline Lilly (Lost)
Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy)
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

Best Supporting Actor in Series, Mini-Series or Movie
Thomas Haden Church (Broken Trail)
Jeremy Irons (Elizabeth I)
Justin Kirk (Weeds)
Masi Oka (Heroes)
Jeremy Piven (Entourage)

Best Picture Drama - Babel

Best Picture Musical or Comedy - Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actor -- Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls

Best Song "The Song of My Heart", Happy Feet, Prince Rogers Nelson

Best Score -- The Painted Veil

Best Screenplay - The Queen

Best Animated Picture -- Cars

Best Actress Musical or Comedy -- Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada

Best Actress Drama -- Helen Mirren, The Queen

Best Actor Drama -- Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actor Musical or Comedy -- Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat

I'm obviously not happy with Grey's Anatomy winning Best Drama, but Ugly Betty (and America Ferrara's) win makes me really really happy. The movie awards were really not much of a surprise, though I suppose one couldn't have predicted Eddie Murphy winning for Dreamgirls. Which I already hate, btw, for absolutely no reason. I also loved that Sacha Baron Cohen won. Really hope he gets an Oscar nom, think it'll be up there with Johnny Depp's nom for Pirates.

I haven't blogged about having watched The Prestige (finally!!!) and Babel. I really, really liked both films. I've read a lot of criticism for Babel, but the movie mostly moved me, and was quite an intense experience. I shall post a more detailed review later. The Prestige, on the other hand, blew me away, with the fantastic direction, great acting, fabulous pacing. It took a book that I would've thought was really difficult to translate to screen and did it brilliantly. Christopher Nolan, you are a genius.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


From the Macworld SF.

All pictures courtesy Engadget, in case the watermark didn't give it away.

Also check out Apple's website

*dissolves in apple-fangirly puddle of goo*

Oh, and Happy New Year, Everyone.

ETA: Wired's initial impressions. Excerpts:
"The amount of innovation coming out of Apple is astounding. The iPhone doesn't just match its competitors, it leaps right over them.

From what Jobs showed Tuesday, the iPhone really does look to be five years ahead of what anyone else has got. Maybe longer. It's taken rivals five years to catch up with the iPod, which now looks hopelessly outdated and crippled compared to the iPhone."