Monday, July 20, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Sometimes we do get the Hero we need.

As the parade of trailers before Bajrangi Bhaijaan amply demonstrated Bollywood is no longer making films for Heroes, honest-to-goodness capital “H” heroes. There are only a handful left in Bombay and not one under 40 with the strength to challenge the 3 Khans. I’ve written about this many times before but, to my mind, what separates a real Hero from just an actor is us, the audience. A Hero’s career is a dialogue with the audience. Sometimes a Hero makes a film for us, sometimes he makes a film for himself, and sometimes he makes a film as a favor for a buddy. The point, whether or not a Hero intends to convey anything at all with his film choices, we, the audience, are going to see a linear progression. We see films sequentially, as they are released, one frame following the next.

Although the past is never past these days, with old mistakes lingering online like Raj & DK’s globalized zombies, nobody can deny that Salman Khan has spent much of the last few years trying to put something good into the world. No matter what the “critical consensus” was on the quality of a film like Veer, it was clearly made with a lot of love and joy. The same with a film like Ready or Bodyguard, films intended to delight audiences, to provide a little hit of pleasure. Not everybody likes everything Salman has made over the course of his career but most of us can find at least one film to enjoy in his recent filmography. Because Salman is just that kind of Hero. He may not be the greatest actor who ever lived but he’s a superb Hero and his on-screen image is subtle, supple, and flexible enough to handle almost any type of persona, infusing each character, no matter how cheeky they’re written, with a sense of real goodness.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Baahubali: The Beginning... Hey, wait, that means... God damn it I have to wait another YEAR for the end?!

“Special Effects Blockbuster” are three words Hollywood has trained me to avoid. They signal the hollow spectacle of dreck like JJ Abrams new Star Trek films, which ditched the moral and human aspects of the original series and replaced them with lens flares glinting of CGI space ships, and Michael Bay’s Transformers series, films so dull the only thing preventing me from falling asleep while giant robots battled it out on screen at the theater was the rowdy group of middle schoolers sitting in front of me--and whose antics were more entertaining than the giant mess of CGI on screen by miles. “Special Effects Blockbuster” usually means a film in special effects are not a means to an end, but the end in themselves.

Baahulbali is being touted as the biggest Indian special effects blockbuster to ever grace the screen. A marketing line like this is red meat for the box office obsessed, blockbuster-watchers of the 24-hour, English language global news cycle. And soon enough we find Internet Critics are bickering over whether or not the CGI are As Good As Hollywood™, generating rupee for rupee comparisons with Red Chilies output like Ra.1 (Shahrukh Cannot Be Defeated™), and attempting to find the special effects clip, like the one from Magadheera, most likely to catch the attention of Reddit and go viral. Meanwhile, any discussion of the real pleasure in a film like Baahubali gets lost in the shuffle.

But Baahubali is not a “Special Effects Blockbuster.”

What SS Rajamouli gave us is a “Fucking Epic Blockbuster.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Iceland 2015! All Tomorrow's Parties!

Good morning, friends! Is it morning still? I am back from Iceland and only a teeny bit jet lagged.

The only film song I could find filmed in Iceland is "Heartalliro" from the Kannada film Brindavana:

But you can see how striking the scenery is. Come on, producers! Go film a love song in June to take advantage of the fields of purple Lupine…

(The Lupine)

Plus Iceland is just awesome!

(Eating a waffle from a waffle truck in Reykjavik in my cool A.B.C-Z concert t-shirt!)

I really, really enjoyed my time there. I traveled with my sister and we spent three days in the capital of Reykjavik and then 3 days at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival out by Keflavik at the old NATO base.

A few things I noticed:

1. Iceland is COLD. I was completely underprepared and had to buy a sweatshirt my first day. I wore it EVERYDAY. I was expecting cool weather but I didn't really understand how cold it is up by the Arctic circle. Even in summer.

2. Iceland loves coffee. And the coffee is strong and very good. My sister and I really enjoyed the coffee at this one place where you get it in a giant french press. We also has so much delicious yogurt and cheese. And fish. Just delicious foods everywhere!

3. Iceland loves sarcasm. I haven't laughed as hard at anything in a long time as I did at all the Icelandic humor. At times I felt like I was living in Mad Magazine's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." No matter what I asked, I'd get some sort of snappy answer in response.

4. Iceland is the one place where I can blend in as a local. Seriously, people. In Iceland I was of average height, average weight, average skin and hair color. And my glasses and clothes fit right in. People would start speaking Icelandic to me before they realized I wasn't. I just need one of those nice sweaters everybody was wearing!

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