Monday, July 27, 2009

Chick Flicks: Is this what it's all about?

These days I've been showing chick flicks to Motorsandal and Youngling. (This experiment has predictably gained enormous support from the Drift Memsaab.)

I rented Confessions of a Shopaholic - an adaptation of Sophie Kinsella's chick lit tome - which gave Isla Fisher her reward for a stellar presence in Wedding Crashers with a shot at genuine stardom.

The movie gathered a highly promising $15 million odd in its opening weekend, but surprisingly took a dive thereafter, clearing only $44 million (just over $100 million overseas).

Labor Pains - the title of which might well be about Lindsay Lohan's initiation into adult stardom - went straight to ABC Family.

While I'm happy to say that the boys seemed to like both movies, I couldn't help but feel that showing them just one would have done the trick. Why so? Here, take a look at a side by side comparison.

Confessions...Labor Pains
Isla Fisher (plays Rebecca Bloomwood) is a bit of an idiot who is addicted - to shopping Lindsay Lohan (plays Thea Clahill) is a bit of an idiot who is addicted - to tobacco
Despite being a layoff waiting to happen, Isla chances on a career opportunity in publishing which she proceeds to grab with chhal kapatt (she feigns qualifications)Lindsay sees a career opportunity materialize in publishing after almost getting fired, which she proceeds to grab with chhal kapatt (she feigns pregnancy)
Isla's boss (Hugh Dancy) happens to be a scruffy, British dreamboatLindsay's boss (Luke Kirby) is a foppish, American dreamboat
All it takes to unlock Isla's genius at writing user friendly financial articles is support and direction from her male bossAll it takes to unlock Lindsay's genius at being a super editor is support and direction from her male boss
Ironically Isla's shopping addiction helps her become a famous writerLindsay's fake pregnancy mysteriously makes her a guru at launching parenting books
Isla and boss fall for each other in a plot point that makes you question the boss' judgementLindsay and boss fall for each other in a plot point that makes you wonder if Lindsay has lost her marbles
Isla has a supportive, chirpy girlfriend (Krysten Ritter) who is beyond annoyingLindsay has a supportive, chirpy girlfriend (Cheryl Hines) who can be mildly annoying
Isla's deceit (she's in debt but doles out financial advice to others) is exposed on TV pissing off her new boss-boyfriend and placing her life in shambles Lindsay's deceit is exposed when a balloon utilized to fake her pregnancy pops - giving heart attacks to numerous pregnant women everywhere. This pisses her boss off and leaves the movie in shambles
Everyone deserves a second chance - especially well meaning women. Boss-boyfriend returns and forgives, career opportunity arises again!Yes, there are second chances in life. Lindsay wins her boss and boyfriend back! A new career is launched.
A green scarf plays a prominent role in the movieA blue balloon plays a prominent role in the movie
The movie has brief parades of great dressesLindsay parades herself in the shower briefly, undressed
Moral of the movie: a little lying can get you a lot, but you have to be sorry and look cute doing itMoral of the movie: a little lying can get you a lot, but you have to be sorry and look cute doing it

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What would you do with the last man on earth?

In the graphic novel Y, at one given moment on a random day - something happens to all males of all species on the planet. They start haemorrhaging blood. Then they drop dead.

On the opening page, a blood splattered woman runs out on the street desperate to help her sick boys. She runs into a female cop on the street. "Its too late" the cop announces. She puts a gun to her head and looks straight at the reader. "All of the men are dead."

Brian K. Vaughn (writer) and Pia Guerra's graphic novel "Y: The Last Man" opened to widespread acclaim in 2003. A few things have happened since then that prompted this post. First, I've read a lot of Vaughn's work and fell in love with most of it. (He's done Ex Machina, Runaways and Pride of Baghdad - reviewed here on the Drift). Second, Y is now available as a hardbound set of collected issues.

Not all males in Y die. Inexplicably a man named Yorick survives along with his male monkey (called Ampersand). But no one knows why the males have dropped dead or why Yorick survived the mandemic.

Being the last man on earth is immediately a bit of a lurid male fantasy. Vaughn does well to address it early and shakes it by the scruff of its neck. But he doesn't entirely abandon the salaciousness of it all. He goes on to address a bunch of practical issues while he's mapping out the story - how does the disappearance of men affect the areas in which they dominate: who runs government, what is the impact on conflicts around the world, how is religion transformed.

Whether you are enamored or not with the story arcs he uses to address these issues - the fact that he grounds his story in these realities keeps you tied to this work. Vaughn uses some other tricks to propel his story - he starts and ends each chapter with a cliffhanger (the intro to this post is a bit of an homage to Vaughn's writing). He keeps the narrative swift by introducing characters rapidly and isn't afraid of leaving them behind just as quickly.

A couple of notes on Pia Guerra's artwork. Pia has to draw lots of characters in this novel - mostly women. She does a stellar job here - differentiating them by facial characteristics (which gives you limited mileage in comics) and hair (much more useful when differentiating characters). But she steps past these well worn techniques to draw women with different body types. Often she gives them a distinct body language.

If anything Pia's sense of drama is muted - often her splash page artwork doesn't quite pop the impact Vaughn might be trying to communicate. In other areas this works well though - avoiding overly dramatic angles and body language makes the novel feel more grounded in reality rather than fantasy.

So what is the fate of Y in this story? A number of engrossing things. Some women are out to save him. Others are out to kill him. In a swell counter take on feminist theory - Yorick get's treated like everyone's property.

In the meantime a space station 220 miles above earth senses something is wrong with home base and decides to return. It carries two men.

Y: The Last Man is published by DC Comics older-audience skewing comics imprint Vertigo and has a total of 60 issues.

D.J. Caruso is developing a movie based on the graphic novel

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wacky Sandwich Day

I've read lots of parenting material on how to raise your kids right. Everyone has loads of advice on how to grow them up to be confident, healthy, sensitive and yes, even non-codependent (dream on!).

What?! Doesn't anyone want their kids to grow up wacky? Last year I took Motorsandal to watch Ghajini. The poor kid cowered through half the movie. I'm very proud of that mistake. I constantly find ways to keep my sons off keel. If I can find a loopy way to interact with them, I immediately adopt it.

Risks must be taken within reason in order to raise reasonable kids.

Starting now, I'm going to offer everyone phaltu Drift advice on how to raise kids a little left of normal. Believe me this is a good thing. They'll grow up to write a book or make a movie about all the nutty stuff that happened to them as kids.

Yesterday, the Drift Memsaab announced that the kids would have Wacky Sandwich day. The basic idea is: the house provides the kids with two slices of bread and access to the refrigerator and pantry. They make their own sandwiches with whatever they'd like.

Based on the largely disgusting sandwiches (the boys wrote the recipes below) that came out of this exercise, I'd say that this is an incredibly good idea.

Youngling (7 years old)
Wakky Sandwich
- bread
- gold fish crackers
- choclate
- lots and lots of olives
- yaki soba noodles
- apsicot
- wusaby peas
- suger christles
- spiesy potato sticks
- bread

Motorsandal (10 years old)
Wacky Sandwich Recipe :)
- Bread
- Yaki Soba Noodles (cold)
- Flamin' Hot Chips
- Pepperjack Cheese
- Jalapenos (LOTS)
- Gun Powder (edible kind of course)
- Corn
- Sambhar
- Bread / not toasted

Right after this whole thing (boys being competitive and all) Motorsandal turned to Youngling and said "Mine is healthier!" Well done son, I'm proud of you.

Next up for the boys: watching chick flicks and reading zombie comics.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Interpreting the most popular bogus statements in Bollywood

Every Bollywood release - be it music, movies or awards shows - is accompanied by an elaborate press junket. In these press meet and greets, a number of inane questions are asked. The poorly prepared stars provide equally inane answers. The really smart stars try for a bit to give well thought out answers, realize its all futile and go back to the inane posturing.

A number of standard questions even have their standard answers. And these have all become such clichés, that the standard answers even have standard hidden meanings!

It's about time someone documented the interpretations behind the most popular bogus statements in Bollywood. Think of it as a guide to help you understand what someone might really be saying.

Cliché: Thank you, I look young because of my strict diet regimen and daily yoga routine!
The real McCoy: That Botox treatment worked out really well didn't it?

Cliché: I don't mind showing skin, but only if it is NOT cheap and vulgar!
The real McCoy: Or if opportunity is involved. Then even Rajesh Khanna pouncing on me is acceptable.

Cliché: I don't mind kissing on screen, but only if its required by the script!
The real McCoy: Yes, my last ten on-screen kisses were right there in the script and said "Required"

Cliché: I compete only with myself!
The real McCoy: Otherwise I'd be losing out all the time

Cliché: I have no problems working with Shahrukh Khan!
The real McCoy: But my boyfriend does

Cliché: Even though my role is small, its a really important one!
The real McCoy: Who am I kidding?! The only small, important roles in Bollywood are played by bikinis.

Cliché: [Insert name here] is a very organized director!
The real McCoy: He expected me to show up on the sets ON TIME!

Cliché: [Insert name here] and I are like sisters!
The real McCoy: We now have open cat fights like sisters instead of stabbing each other in the back like acquantainces

Cliché: I am taking a break!
The real McCoy: No one has offered me a film in the last six months

Cliché: I am so excited to be working in Tamil films for a change!
The real McCoy: Well, its better than taking a break, no?

Cliché: I am playing a very different role in this film - that of a stuntman!
The real McCoy: Although its a stunt man who chases skirts and does pretty much the same things I did as a club owner in my previous hit

Cliché: My movie is a full-on entertainer, but with a hatke theme
The real McCoy: Right, I play a lawyer instead of a college student - hatke no?

Cliché: My performance has been appreciated by a lot of people!
The real McCoy: I am so grateful to my family members, my close friends and my chamchaas for appreciating that stinker

Cliché: What's Aspi's Drift? Is that a new flavor of ice cream?
The real McCoy: Man, I hope he doesn't watch my new TV show and write about it. I've been checking  every week until the season is over!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Kambakkht Ishq: Its all about men!

There are two things about Kambakkht Ishq that you need to know.

First, avoid taking your kids to this movie. Not because of the sex and violence - both of which are quite comical and nothing that would make Disney channel regulars bat an eyelid. But because most of us have spent so much time teaching our kids about gender equality. Why turn the clock back and do untold damage to those young minds? So, avoid for kids.

Kambakkht Ishq is all about men. Don't believe me? Listen to this.

Actor: Akshay Kumar
Role: MAN slut

Akshay Kumar in a reprise of his role in Heyy Babyy - is a man slut. He sleeps around constantly. He hits on almost anyone in a skirt - unless that skirt happens to be worn by a big, black woman. He pretty much hates the opposite sex - using them as self serving objects to power his machismo. Early on in the movie, he is confronted by two girlfriends. From the sidelines Brandon Routh wonders "how will he get out of this one?". Akki's chamchaa answers "Practice!"

Akshay strikes up a near murderous relationship with Kareena but at a crucial moment has a change of heart. This change of heart is brought on by Kareena snuggling up to him in a little girl voice and seeking assurance that he is not 'like other men'. Yes, scores of other women dumped by Akshay couldn't figure out that all you had to do to tame the man was to act underage.

Actor: Kareena Kapoor
Role: MAN hater

Kareena hates men - ostensibly because of the divorces of her mum and sister, for whom she blames the men. She is a surgeon in making, paying for her med school by modelling on the side. At one point she slices and dices Akshay Kumar's lower intestines. This scene was much fun to watch although it could have been better if Akshay's lines - which were meant to be jokes - had been cut.

But with two major careers at hand, Kareena's taming and subsequent happiness requires a man. A truly worthy one at that. Who could that be? You guessed it! Man Slut!

Actor: Amrita Arora
Role: MANtally challenged

Amrita doesn't know much about men - although the same could be said about her in other areas of life. She takes advice from Kareena and withholds sex from her new husband. Later, when she discovers her husband with his pants down at a major makeout club, she inexplicably tapes almost all the objects in her house with blue plumber's tape. Don't ask!

Actor: Denise Richards
Role: Maneater

Denise Richards - the "mega" Hollywood star in this movie - plays a couger. And I say this only because she looks more trashed out than Akki himself. She strikes up a relationship with Man slut and goes shopping with him - which has since resulted in real life admiration. But because she spends most of her time sleeping with Akki - which as anyone will tell you is terribly inappropriate behavior for women - she has to dumped. At the altar, no less.

Kareena and Akki both spend some time making kachra of her in the movie. This, I admit, was fun to watch.

Actor: Sylvestor Stallone
Role: Man mower

Stallone's face in this movie looks like its been constructed from billowy cotton balls. He hands an award to Akki for Stuntman of the year - prompting a hysterical 'small town boy makes good' speech from Akshay. Later he beats up a bunch of really bad goondas who just happen to be all black men. First he pins them to a wall by pushing a car against them with his bare hands. Then he rips out a parking meter and swings it around. This earns him the undying gratitude of Kareena and Amrita.

Actor: Kiron Kher
Role: Man search engine

Kiron plays Kareena's aunt - who like any good aunt - is constantly trying to get Kareena hitched. At a crucial juncture Kiron reveals that Kareena's parents' broken relationship was her mum's fault. After some delicious overacting, Kiron delivers this bit of information out of the blue and in a trembling dialog. This, I also admit, was much fun to watch and elicited many chuckles from me.

Which brings me to the second thing you need to know. There are only two ways to really sit through this movie: consume lots of alcohol beforehand or have a friend chain you to the seat.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Fashion Revisited: The fate of Bad Girls in Bollywood

There used to be a time in Bollywood when bad girls were depicted doing some scandalous things. These scandalous things were used not just to help us identify the bad girl but also give us an indication of the extent of her badness.

Secretly I used to dig them - the real reason I hated villains was that they had access to these girls and never quite appreciated them fully. I loved Komila Wirk. I worshipped Helen. I wanted to be Bindu's neighbor.

What did these bad girls do in movies that condemned them to a horrible fate - like say a bullet in their heaving bosoms or the leering attention of people like Madan Puri? Several things including but not limited to:

Wearing a short skirt
Showing some cleavage
Smoking a cigarette
Sipping sharaab
Doing a caberet
Possessing hazel eyes
Seductively draping self over a couch, floor or other horizontal surface
And the doozy: Cozying up to Ranjeet

These days no one would bat an eyelid if the grand behenji of Bollywood heroines - Gracy Singh herself - did all of the above. In the first half of a movie! Ok, well maybe not all of them - but you get my point.

Still as were the demands of society and cinema (or both), bad girls needed to be taught a lesson and most used to perish faster than the token black guy in Star Trek.

Sometimes they had a change of heart, but it came too late and they still had to kick the bucket - usually after taking a knife in the spleen intended for someone else.

A lot of guys who did bad things (or guys who had 'strayed' during the course of a movie) got to make a comeback and end the story with a happily ever after. This cinematic journey, sadly, wasn't available to bad girls in mass market movies. More than the gender inequality of it - I've always felt that this made for rather predictable and hence boring cinema.

Which is why, despite its unevenness, I enjoyed watching Fashion - Madhur Bhandarkar's barbed wire bouquet to the Indian Fashion industry.

Fashion has a very ghisa pita, but well tested nevertheless, story - a grounded, middle-class girl (Meghna Mathur) played by Priyanka Chopra arrives in Mumbai with dreams of becoming a super model. She struggles. She tries really hard with mixed results (this comment would also apply to Priyanka's acting).

Through a series of fortunate events (and one smoking bod) she makes it big. She compromises. She begins a downward spiral - first personally and then professionally. She unravels. Finally, down in the dumps, she takes time off to reflect. She makes a comeback.

But does she still have what it takes? Does she still have the talent to sashay about 30 steps, turn and matkofy back again? Bhais ki poonch! If only Priyanka had to land an F-16 on a skating rink or cure cancer instead. But I digress. Back to the point I was trying to make.

In Fashion, Priyanka becomes a bad girl for a while. She does innumerable bad things. Yet in the end, she is able to put it all behind her and becomes a star again. Everyone welcomes her back with open arms.

Sure there is another girl (Kangana Ranaut) who tries the same thing and meets a rather unforgiving end. And Priyanka does have to go back to being somewhat goody two shoes again before she is allowed into the cozy folds of happily ever after.

But all progress can't be measured by a yardstick. Sometimes an inch ruler has to suffice.

I realize this progress could only further reinforce the slutty girlfriend who is expected to become a virginal savitri after marriage stereotype. Which is why I'd like to make a binati to Fashion's filmmaker.

Madhur, I'd like you to make a movie called "Shaadi" - a ceremony that has reached such nutty proportions of made up riwaaz, commerce and dikhawa that its ripe for satire. I suggest at least one character who is a wild child wife who does all kinds of crazy things and totally gets away with it.

Be sure to cast Gracy Singh.