Monday, March 26, 2007

Such Idiots... such high positions of power. Check out this BBC Hard Talk interview of John Bolton, US' former ambassador to the UN. I would comment, but Bolton's words are better testimony to his moronic nature than anything anyone can say could ever be.

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Problem with The Departed

(Warning: The following post contains spoilers about Reservoir Dogs and The Departed)

I loved the movie. It featured some brilliant acting, a great story and great direction. I just…hated the ending. The movie was going great till about ten minutes from the ending, at which point everyone started going plop-plop-plop. Everyone except for Mark Wahlberg, that is – but given how everyone else was disposed of, I’m more inclined to think he was kept alive either for a sequel (which is on its way, apparently) or simply because there should be one person left alive at the end to shoot the second-last person.

The last movie I saw with an ending that was remotely similar was Reservoir Dogs (only Mr. Pink survives). I saw the movie a long time ago, so I don’t remember it well enough - but I do remember being rather impressed by the shock ending, because till then, I hadn’t seen any movies which chopped off all the main characters within a span of some 20 seconds. With The Departed, however, I felt somewhat cheated at the end.

The better movies are those that bring alive their characters – that make me watch every scene wanting to know what happens next to these people. Which is why I expect proper closure for every major character in a good movie – I’d rather not see a character say “I’ll be right back”, never to be heard of again. The directors and story writers need to decide what to do with every character by the time the movie ends. Mostly, deaths are integral to the storyline – but sometimes killing off a character becomes a shortcut, a way for the director to finish off the movie without having to decide what to do with that particular person.

A lesser director and a simpler storyline would’ve made things simpler, because most movies still fall into the “Good vs. Evil” category – villain goes around doing evil stuff, good guy goes around doing good stuff, and in the end the bad guy dies because it’s the righteous thing to show. Some movies go to extreme extents to make the contrast obvious, for example Ghostrider, which actually shows Nicolas Cage, complete with flaming skull, leather jacket and chains in hand, stopping his bike to save a lady from a mugger. But that’s a different story, and one better left unsaid. Who should die and who should survive isn’t even a question in such movies – it just boils down to how the bad guy eventually dies.

The Departed, however, made things interesting by making every character a different shade of grey - barely any character was Surf-Excel-white. While watching The Departed, I was wondering at several points at what the ending would be – would the weasely guy (Matt Damon) kill off Leonardo and secure his own future? Would Leo get Damon sent off to jail? And if that happened, what would the law do with Dicaprio, given that he was a plant himself? Would Wahlberg resurface in time to tell the cops that he had sent Leo to infiltrate Nicholson’s gang?

The story, however, eventually ended up taking the “Ek-tha-Raja-Ek-thi-Rani-dono-mar-gaye-khatam-kahani” route….killing off everyone. No tough moral decisions to make, no problems.

And that’s the problem I had with an otherwise brilliant movie.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

271 Arrests in Pune at a Rave Party last week

...reminds me of this old Doonesbury strip. Don't the cops have any real work to do?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Music Review: The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

It might seem somewhat late to review The Crane Wife, given that it released more than four months ago - but it passed by largely unnoticed in India. That’s a shame, considering that this is the best album I’ve heard in 2006. While the album is full of catchy, melodious tunes, it’s the lyrics that make this record the masterpiece that it is. Each song is more like a short story, told more-often-than-not in the first person, and singer Colin Meloy manages to immerse himself incredibly well into the skin of the characters he creates.

The songs are mostly about war and personal loss, but the tunes are upbeat, sounding even happy at times – which is nothing new to The Decemberists, but is a technique used so well in this album that it switches the mood of the songs from melancholy to aggression to optimism, and seamlessly at that. Even when Meloy sings “I will hang my head, hang my head low” in the first song, you’ll find yourself singing along sooner or later.

The album is held together by two “concept” songs – the sixteen minute title track in three parts, and “The Island/Come and See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll not feel the Drowning”, a 12-minute track in four parts about a kidnapping and murder. This second track is the highlight of the album, starting off with a short progressive instrumental piece and then heading off into folk-rock territory, full of some very quick and very effective finger-picking, that is the mainstay for most of the album.

The most ambitious track, however, is the title track, The Crane Wife, based on a Japanese folk tale about a man who heals a wounded crane, only to find it return to his doorstep in the form of a beautiful woman – who he marries and subsequently loses because of his greed. The song’s third part, which ironically is the first track on the album, is one of their best tracks till date, sung so well that Meloy seems obsessed at times.

Another song that stands out is O Valencia, a story about the Romeo-and-Juliet premise of two lovers caught in the middle of a gang war. The chorus itself is enough to put vivid images in your mind as Meloy sings “I swear to the stars, I’ll burn this whole city down…”

Poetry set to great music, backed by very good instrumentation is how I would define this album. Definitely worth hearing.

How does one Convince a Dog...

...that any car is, uh, "fair game" when out on a walk...unless there's someone cleaning it right then?
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