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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Flixster Namesakes

Social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster have revolutionised how we interact online, as much, if not more than blogs because they are proactive, rather than often reactive like blogs are.

Participation, not lurking, is what keeps them going since the experience is lessened if you don't join in the fun.

(And have you noticed that seemingly all "third-wave" inventions have a way of becoming unbelievably addictive? From the internet itself, to such things as gaming, to Youtube, as well as Facebook I've heard, are all time-wasting portals of drastic proportions. Who said modern man has a short attention span? It's just selfish, is all)

So it was without too much amazement that I heard from Renato, that the Friendster idea has been made into a niche market for us cinephiles.

Flixster is here!

...well, it's been here since January 2006, but you get the picture.

Anyone of you on Flixster already?

I am about to join, but I dread falling under the spell of its addictiveness, if only for that first week when all you do, is haunt and lurk its site (first night I was on Youtube, I was on from 11 PM to 6 AM, straight).

We'll see if I join, because anything which takes me away from Sundries, and therefore, my friends here, is not something I like.

Still, finding people who actually can speak for hours about a given film which no one around me knows, or I think doesn't know -- that's a boon, I must say, even if my particular readership here is unusually gifted in being able to speak knowledgeably about many films.

Since we're on the topic, allow a quick review of the latest film I've seen this month, The Namesake.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

-- As an aside, you know me. Rare, rare is the weekend where I don't stuff my face with at least 2 films at the cinemas. But since February, I've seen oh, maybe, 5 films? Including Breach and 300, the first of which I thought almost cartoonishly anti-Catholic, the second of which I rather enjoyed, actually. --

I don't know about your previews, but my cinema chains were heavily HEAVILY promoting trailers of The Namesake, even months away from its premiere.

Having been thus primed, it was a film I couldn't wait to see, because it seemed like a suitably interesting film amongst the dreck of the New Year, the traditional time when the studios throw their worst films at us, the viewing public.

What, after all, is not to like about The Namesake, given my own background?

A coming-of-age movie about a young immigrant who learns to appreciate his parents' culture, and who finds an inner peace about his sometimes irascible relationship with his father, as he does so.

Maybe not exactly my case, but close enough.

For those of us who are both repelled and attracted in turns by Bollywood films, it also seemed like a respite from all the corny sashaying and endless musical numbers which one gets, like it or not, from such productions.

Also, it didn't look like one of those cutesy pictures like Bend it Like Beckham or Bhajji on the Beach, which no matter how much I liked (and I did), were still minor comedies at best.

Finally, I thought, a serious film about a topic which is truly universal: learning to grow up and awakening parts of one, we didn't know existed so deeply inside us.

Alas, alas, The Namesake fell well short of its appointed rounds.

I have not read the book of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, so perhaps those of you who did, might be better disposed towards the film.

Certainly that happened to me with Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, which I walked out of because I have KNOWN people like him, and his mother, and thus was deeply discomfitted to see it laid out before me (Annette Benning was terrific, though).





The story revolves around a man who has a life-altering event occur to him as he is reading Nikolai Gogol's story, The Overcoat, which incidentally I adore.

He decides to emigrate to America, and some time later, comes back to India so that his parents may find him a suitable wife. They do, and the couple moves together to America, where they eke out a cold, humble existence in New York, where their son is born, then their daughter.

In memory of that life-altering event, the man names his son Gogol, who as can be imagined, hates his name because of its tease-making quality at school.

But is it his first name, or his parents' alien culture that Gogol hates? As you can imagine, it's all interrelated, which we know, but it takes him almost a lifetime to come to terms with, sped up after a tragedy in his life alters his way of thinking.

As you can see, the story outline itself is fascinating. One is gripped by a simple story of angst and reconciliation.

The story's strong suit are the two minor leads -- the father, played with deft elegance by Irffan Khan, and the mother (who is perhaps too pretty and young, not to mention statuesque throughout, to be properly convincing), Bollywood leading actress, Tabu.

When their story is the focus of the film, in effect, in the first hour, the story glides effortlessly, though not without flaws.

The scenes of assimilation are almost all rehashed from a million tales of immigration (we know that Ashima is going to find it difficult to cope with the cooker and the laundrette -- give us something different!).

But when the couple is together, there is a tenderness, an INDIANNESS that is lovely to behold.

Enter Gogol.

Maybe it hurt that I had recently seen Kal Penn in the abysmal "Epic Movie" (yes, what? I love spoofs) but let me say, he is perhaps the worst actor I've seen in a while.

His torturedly American diction doesn't help matters, and his delivery thus is encumbered by some kind of self-conscious patter which makes his lines fall flat before they are out of his mouth. Ack, he's so distracting!

Neither he, nor his wife, nor indeed, his sister in the film add anything to its storyline, and that's not even mentioning the completely forgettable role played by Jacinda Barrett (playing yet another upset would-be bride, as she did in The Last Kiss).

From start to finish, The Namesake promised much, and gave so very little for what its trailer represented it to be.

Watching that, you'd think the story centred around Gogol returning to India to find his roots, only then realising how treasured his ancestry was and what his parents meant to him, and thus primed for that, we looked for a kind of epiphany which never came.

Look, it's not My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with its weedy stupid storyline, but neither is it Maria Full of Grace which was starkly bitter.

I couldn't help thinking that the 3-hanky weepie, The Joy Luck Club, did a much better job with the little they were given to work with, only by the charisma of its secondary actors.

The Namesake couldn't even muster that. As they say, wait for the DVD.

Ah well. We'll just have to see what other film is out there for us adults to enjoy.


QUICK SPRING 2007 MOVIE GUIDE

Well, since we're on the topic, and you'll perhaps remember my Christmas Movie Guide 2006, here are some quick reviews which might be of some interest to you.


Zodiac

A lengthy film (almost 3 hours long) which doesn't get bogged down in its own detective worship, unlike so many crime thrillers around (Black Dahlia comes to mind, achingly).

Whilst not as good as the stellar reviews said, it still is a churning search for the Zodiac killer which haunted the Bay Area in the 1970s. Stage veteran, Mark Ruffalo, yet again shows why he is one of the more exciting actors around.


GRADE: A-


Meet the Robinsons

The surroundings, which will soon be blogged on Sundries, were the highlight of this film for me, not the actual movie which was trite almost to a sacchrine degree. Walt Disney isn't capable of producing that age-defining film anymore, and that's a shame.

If you get to see it on 3-D, do. If not, forget about it.

GRADE: C+


Breach

Oh God. If it's not the hysterical anti-Catholicism of the Da Vinci Code, it's this winter's little gift box from satan, Breach.

Sure, Robert Hanssen's story is definitely worth telling, because it was the worst breach of security in our nation's history. But unlike the other recent spy stories, this was given the nod by Hollywood presumably because Hanssen's motivation wasn't JUST greed -- it was fame, intertwined with a malevolent Opus Dei personality.

Upshot, Catholics bad. Catholic spies, worse, and hypocrites to boot.

GRADE: C-


300

Are you kidding me? If you come for a rendition of the Battle of Thermopylae as presented by Herodotus, save your money.

But if you come for a rollicking good time, filled with mythic warriors who acted as larger-than-life on screen as they were in real life, enjoy this film.

It was a ROMP, one that I wish the studios would make more often. It had the quality, and joyfulness of a good-old-fashioned Hollywood epic, even dire ones, like Clash of the Titans.

GRADE: A-

(Soon to watch: Iraq in Fragments, Miss Potter, Inland Empire, Colour Me Kubrick, Offside, Summer in Berlin, Disturbia, Lonely Hearts, Grindhouse. Stay tuned...)

Labels:

13 Comments:

  • Going to the Grindhouse with Sundries would simply be the shizz! I went to my first viewing of Pulp Fiction wearing a Reservoir Dogs black suit/white shirt!

    The 300 rocks the CGI house! I'm wanting a CGI Rom Com! You make the couple impossibly hot, by using a green screen!

    Color Me Kubrick was fetishistically boring! (except the use of music!)

    All others must still be seen...especially Zodiac.

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Apr 15, 05:43:00 am GMT-4  

  • I could read you for hours! One interesting post after another. Are you like this in your every-day life? Do you have galleries of hangers-on, waiting for your next utterance? Would you like to? ;-) Keep up the great work and consider Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet on Lost) for your next woman crush. See? Always looking out for you!

    By Blogger Darrell, at Sun Apr 15, 11:49:00 am GMT-4  

  • "Miss Potter"

    Obi-Wan and Emily Watson (who's a lot taller than I remember her being) are terrific, and the Lake District money shots deliver, but Zellwegger isn't much and the tacked-on coda has an unpleasant modern-coded tinge.

    Grade: B.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Apr 15, 12:14:00 pm GMT-4  

  • So you wont be joining the Ivan the Terrible Pt 1 fan club anytime soon?

    300 & Zodiac seem interesting but there hasn't been much out that has piqued my interest.

    Was somehow suckered into seeing Ghostrider - Nicolas Cage needs to find his fortress of solitude and stay there.

    By Blogger Renato, at Sun Apr 15, 01:59:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Going to the Grindhouse with Sundries would simply be the shizz! I went to my first viewing of Pulp Fiction wearing a Reservoir Dogs black suit/white shirt!

    LOL! Only you, Ron. That's why you're such fun. ;)

    BTW, I've heard excellent things about the Tarantino side of Grindhouse. Wasn't able to squeeze it in this weekend, but I shall sometime this week.

    The 300 rocks the CGI house! I'm wanting a CGI Rom Com! You make the couple impossibly hot, by using a green screen!

    Green screen porn, eh?

    Color Me Kubrick was fetishistically boring! (except the use of music!)

    Well, I have it in front of me at the moment, not having realised it was already at the local Blockbusters.

    Your taste and mine are always eerily similar, but we'll see...

    All others must still be seen...especially Zodiac.

    I was a bit harsh about Zodiac, no?

    I did give it a high grade, though. And without a doubt, it's the best movie of the early season.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 16, 02:22:00 am GMT-4  

  • I hope that the bees weren't too hard on poor Nicolas Cage.

    It just seems to get funnier every time I watch it.

    By Blogger Alcibiades, at Mon Apr 16, 02:24:00 am GMT-4  

  • I could read you for hours! One interesting post after another.

    Thank you, Darrell! You are so a tonic to my system. :)

    Although that makes you sound like Pepto-Bismol, rather.

    Are you like this in your every-day life?

    Dunno. Maybe. Ask Renato. :)

    Do you have galleries of hangers-on, waiting for your next utterance?

    I used to have loads of IRL friends...but relocation, marriage, and distance have done their worst. Boo.

    Would you like to? ;-)

    Anytime, babe. ;)

    Keep up the great work and consider Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet on Lost) for your next woman crush. See? Always looking out for you!

    Lovely! I shall Google forthwith. ;)

    Remember, I like 'em brunette and busty and with deep voices. Corrrr!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 16, 02:24:00 am GMT-4  

  • Obi-Wan and Emily Watson (who's a lot taller than I remember her being)

    She's actually quite tall, yes. Not freakishly so like Penelope Keith (IMDB says 5'10", no way, I've stood next to her after one of her performances and she's at LEAST 6'1" without heels), but she's up there.

    are terrific, and the Lake District money shots deliver, but Zellwegger isn't much and the tacked-on coda has an unpleasant modern-coded tinge.

    Grade: B.


    Hmm, very appetising! Thank you. Much better than I anticipated.

    What did you think of King Kong, since your abortive review will never come to pass otherwise?

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 16, 02:26:00 am GMT-4  

  • So you wont be joining the Ivan the Terrible Pt 1 fan club anytime soon?

    Seeing how there are only freaks, and goths in that club...maybe. :)

    300 & Zodiac seem interesting but there hasn't been much out that has piqued my interest.

    You haven't missed a THING, Renato. It's all dross out there, though the films are slowly perking up.

    Soon the Simpson's Movie will be out, yay!!

    Was somehow suckered into seeing Ghostrider - Nicolas Cage needs to find his fortress of solitude and stay there.

    Oh My God. And don't forget the same person suckered you into watch Rocky Balboa. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 16, 02:28:00 am GMT-4  

  • I hope that the bees weren't too hard on poor Nicolas Cage.

    It just seems to get funnier every time I watch it.


    LOL! That's hilarious, Alcibiades. Especially since (like all rational human beings) I didn't see Wicker Man due to its horrid reviews.

    But this clip makes WM look bad-GOOD.

    A cult film, like Mommie Dearest, surely.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Apr 16, 02:30:00 am GMT-4  

  • I liked Zodiac a lot less than you did, I think.

    And I loved Good Neighbors and To the Manor Born (speaking of Penelope Keith), as a kid.

    Strange shows for a 10-12 year old to watch in the US, but I was a strange kid.

    (also, I found her kind of hot for some reason, personality goes a long way for me)

    By Blogger XWL, at Mon Apr 16, 04:25:00 am GMT-4  

  • "The Italian" is a sweet movie. It made me want to adopt about a dozen Russian orphans.

    "Blades of Glory" is plain silly stupid fun if you like that sort of thing.

    By Anonymous class factotum, at Mon Apr 16, 01:41:00 pm GMT-4  

  • "since your abortive review will never come to pass otherwise"

    Ha! You should see the things I mean to write for my blog...

    They appear, eventually. Very eventually.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sat Apr 21, 03:52:00 am GMT-4  

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