Sunday, June 08, 2008

Happiness - The Review, and The 8 Tag

Although I have written quite a number of reviews over the years (some of them on this blog, a few on I don't claim to be a critic and a reviewer. I am not a cinema student either. I also don't like describing the plot, the characters their relationships etc. (unless absolutely necessary to drive home some other broader point about the movie). My reviews are mostly about what the movie makes one feel and think.

I have been looking for the right words to describe "Happiness" and have not been able to get too many. So I may end up using sentences that may get long and winding, very much unlike the movie itself though.
On the face of it, the movie looks sleazy and is weaved around tragic and scandalous subjects (like Paedophilia, Homosexuality, Masturbation etc). But when looked closely, its a very disturbing mirror shown to some of human realities. There is no point being driven home (or may be...?) but the extremely honest, understated, and darkly comical re-creation of what could otherwise only be described as human tragedies leaves one aghast and touched.
The humor has been weaved into the tragedy in such a way that you don't know whether to cry or to laugh. The movie is 'lightly dark', and almost mocks itself while portraying the hollowness of some of the human pursuits, and the helplessness of others.
Cinematically, its a very challenging script to pull off because of the highly sexual undertones (and overtones). But the movie deals with the situations extremely sensitively, without getting vulgar at any point. The intelligent black humor precariously balances itself between sleaze and depressing tragedy, never tending to become either!
The movie successfully manages to not pull the viewer into the depressing spiral that it creates. One may choose to look into the depth, the misery and the intensity, or just laugh through the film without getting involved with the intricate maze of ethical, moral and tragic realities that it is built upon. Thats why I like it so much, because it does solve the primary purpose of the medium - entertainment.
The movie has been so well made that its tough for me to get into any cinematic intricacies like evaluating performances or screenplay etc! Everything is just right. At least I didn't find any stark flaws. For me, the director was brilliant enough to make sure that each character was wonderfully crafted and judiciously utilised. The scenes are great because of the situations and their context. Of course, the actors have done a great job but its the director who has been able to make them do what they did by visualizing such unique yet real situations.
For eg. A desperate single guy who makes random phone calls for sex chat and shags on porn magazines all day, has the hots for his neighbor. He calls the neighbor one day, during one of those random phone-call routines, and tells her what he "imagines" doing to her. Such is her state of mind at the time of the phone call that she wants him to come over and do her. The scene when he actually lands up at her door, and both of them just end up sitting at the two ends of a sofa, is the most amazing dialogue-less scenes ever! The intricate situation and the multiple thoughts that may be going through the character's mind can only be imagined. He finally leaves and ends up sleeping (on the same bed but facing the other way) with the other larger sized lady neighbor, who has the hots for him.
Or the scene where a peadophile father answers all the questions, howsoever tough, when confronted by his prepubescent son!

I feel that people will have extreme reactions to the movie (Loved it vs Hated it). Those who hate it might say, among other things, that it reeks if looser mentality and inferiority complex. But I sense that even they would only be lying to themselves if they said they didn't relate to it. The biographies of the greatest of people are full of instances showing how they have been through both the sides of life and success. And then this movie has a chain of characters linking one looser who runs after another looser who runs after another looser and so on. (Quite similar in concept to the "Tauba tauba ve teri surat" video of Kailash Kher). Everybody, at the end of the day, is at the same level!

There is something very uncanny about the movie that I have still not been able to put my finger on. It doesn't say anything to anyone. It doesn't claim any pedestal or POV. Its just there, as a statement or a question, and yet it can't be ignored. Its too real a statement. Its not about 'What is happiness?', but its 'Is there happiness?'.

And one thing I can't forget ever is the "climax" of the film. I think the most apt final words ever spoken were said at the end of Happiness, - "I came".

~~~~~~~~~~~~end of review~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goonj tagged me. I'll keep it short.

8 things I am passionate about - Exploring Physics/Probability/Working of the mind/Will, Sensible Cinema/My movie collection, Cricket, My woman (Whoever she may be), Performing satisfactorily in my work (Whatever I do), Writing (lately), Understanding and Arguing.
8 things I want to do before I die - There is nothing that needs 'completion' or some kind of a time-frame. I am already doing all that I am passionate about and more, so even if I die today, I'd die a happy man.
8 things I say often - Right. Ok. Hmm. Fair enough. Cool hai. Relax. Bitch. Sorry.
8 books I have read recently - Shadows Of the Mind - Roger Penrose, Chaos - James Gleick, Fooled By Randomness - Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The God Experiments, My Experiments with Truth - Gandhi, Love Story - Erich Segal (3rd time), Remember Me (A chick-lit. Don't ask why. But loved it.), Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling). "Recently" is quite a deceptive term here! These books have been read over 8 months.
8 songs I could listen to over and over - Drops Of Jupiter (Train), Afterglow (INXS), Hey You (Floyd), Trouble & Fix You (Coldplay), Turn The Page (Bob Segar version), One (U2), Top Gun Theme (Joe Satriani)
(I had done a similar post on Avanoo about, if my life were a movie then what would the soundtrack be? Check the link.)
8 things that attract me to my best friends - I have just 1 best friend and it would take me an eternity to come up with even 1 things that 'attracts' me to him. I am honestly completely truly repelled by the idea! There are a few more close friends, who are my friends inspite of what they are! :) Thats about it.

Most of the people have already done the tag and others will do it soon. So, I tag no one.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


"Happiness" by Todd Solontz is one of the MOST difficult and awesome work of art ever created!!!

not just because of the thoughts and content
not just because of the beauty of expression, the natural-ness of it all
not just because of being touching

because of all of it....

Tough job.... well done!...

Bravo Todd... Bravo!!!!!!!!

May be i'll write a detailed review soon...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Letters From The Moon Part 7

Hi Jimmy,

My fascination for the moon is at a sort of a crossroad. I have not been able to write to you simply because I have not been feeling too great lately. May be its the different planetary alignment that my body is still getting used to! :)
The work on the GM gardens has been stalled enough to put authorities in an embarrassing situation. They have been able to develop just one genetically modified flower in over 8 months. Even that flower looks more like a purple praying mantis than any orchid, as claimed!
Just one type of flower would hardly help us make gardens out here, would it! I always thought that the moon deserved much more. A garden on Moon can be a girl's most fascinating dream. I am quite mad now.
I am not liking the way I am being treated here. Although its mild, but being pointed out every once in a while that I am only half Moononian seems senseless to me. You know that Dad was an Earth guy. But how does that make a difference? Some of these so called Moon-Kids move around with such an aura as if they were demi gods and people from earth were some sort of despicable lower level humans! Mom fears that if this growing social attitude is not curbed soon, it will take an ugly shape. I don't understand why should such a feeling exist at all! I mean, Moon doesn't have a human history of even 50 years (42 to be precise) and people have already started discriminating against first generation Earth guys! Shameful.

The brighter side is that there have been major upgradations in Moon infrastructure. The much awaited 'Cyclotronic Intra-Planetary Orbit Tube Service' has finally been unveiled and people are quite excited about it. But when compared with the excitement for the 'Zero Modulation Gravity Zones', it doesn't come any close! I still believe that the best and by far the healthiest way to pass time on moon is, to bounce around in these natural gravity zones. I just love it!
The Orbit Tube Service, or Ottis as people have started calling it, will soon get extended to allow for travel between Earth and Moon. The technology is a little weird. Technically, each passenger is first deconstructed at the origin and then reconstructed at the destination. Obviously they don't get to know about it and feel that they have slept though the journey. I wonder if these tubes will have windows! :P. And then, what use traveling when you can't even read a book on the way?! Sigh!

I want to tell you that I still love you and want you to come to Moon for good. Lets not get the distance of Moon and Earth between our relationship! Don't give me that silly reason of yours, that its easier for a writer to fuel his imagination by looking at the moon from earth than by looking at the earth from the moon. You just won't believe how beautiful earth looks from the moon. It does not rise or set. It just stays there in the moon sky like a blue splashy marble waiting to be picked up and played with. Makes me want to stay on moon forever, just to look at it. Which is quite a probability because I am not sure I'll be able to go back to earth and adjust to all that pollution and heat! Moon seems far more peaceful. Earth does look beautiful, but only from a distance.

With the Ottis in place, I think you would at least want to consider a trip this side.
I hope to see you soon.


STA - 1472C
Next to Grungian Crater

(Inspired by my own Letters From The Moon, Part 2, written sometime earlier. I know, I am quite narcissistic. Kindly note that 'Crimson Feet' (from the earlier letter) and this girl who loves Jimmy, are neighbors!)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mundane Movie Update Post

I had a brilliant movie filled weekend!

I realised that Charlie Kaufman is a less sung master, Robin Williams can't be praised enough, Nicolas Cage CAN act (and brilliantly at that), the french maestro Truffaut's creations can be genuinely boring, that I do love Jack Black's brand of humor and am not scared of putting his name in the same sentence with Truffaut, and finally, I realised that penguins can spark existential thoughts and shy away from giving answers that they don't know that they just might know!

Movies in Question -

March Of The Penguins - Morgan Freeman (Voice)
A fascinating documentary on the lifecycle of Penguins! The existential thoughts? Well, you wonder what motivates them to take up that arduous journey? You wonder what makes them put their life at stake looking for a mate, having an egg, taking care of it at all costs, and then going away from each other?
What makes us feel that our feelings and emotions aren't as much a part of a mechanical universal plan as are the obvious trials and travails of the penguins? And by a mechanical plan I don't mean a super-intelligent being having programmed us. Just look at the commonality between every living thing. They procreate, multiply and further their species. All have a seemingly hidden purpose that they are not aware of. And most likely, there isn't any purpose at all. We humans are also equally unaware if a purpose at all exists, and we garb the procreating instinct under love, relationships, soul mates, affection, bond etc etc.
*end it* ;)

The Big White - Robin Williams
A simple touching film about a man who loves his wife a lot. A LOT. No... I mean, really... A LAAWWT!

Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board) - Dir. Francis Truffaut
This movie almost bored me. Its too real. Its too obvious and its just too.. well may be french.
Newly wed couple, regular life-like neighborhood with various life-like 'characters', regular life, dedicated husband, husband slips for a mysterious looking Japanese woman (what a twist), wife doesn't like it (the other possibility being?), regular quarrels, husband leaves the house, experienced next door married woman assures the wife that husband will come back, husband realises that he really can't spend quality time with the Japanese woman due to certain cultural differences, calls his wife to tell her how bored and incompatible he is with the Japanese woman, comes back to wife, gets into the routine again, they start living the way regular married couples do, and start doing things that they used to see their long married neighbouring couple doing.
I have NO views on the story. I just saw it. Didn't get bored enough to leave it. Just kept watching and then it ended, and I started another.
I think if someone watches it just before getting married, they would get quite screwed in the head. They wouldn't know what the heck to make of it! What was the point?
Even I don't know what the heck to make of it, but the good thing is, I am not getting married. ;)

School Of Rock - Jack Black
I remember having noticed Jack Black for the first time in "High Fidelity" and I loved the character! This guy can be so full of energy! And then I saw this awesome cameo of his in "Melvin Goes To Dinner" (Its an amazing must watch film about 4 almost strangers, ending up in a restaurant together and getting into a series of highly unexpected, long and engaging conversations about almost everything under the sun!). "Envy" is another underrated spoof on life that had him in a lead role!
'School of Rock' has infinite entertainment value if viewed right after 'Domicile Conjugal'.

Adaptation - Nicolas Cage, Wri. Charlie Kauffman
Brilliant and extremely intelligent piece of work. Pulling off such a script and the screenplay and not getting lost in it or not messing it up is an extraordinary feat in itself!
Over and above the fact that its an emotionally intelligent film, one must also watch it if they love exploring intricacies and looking for logical flaws ;). As per me, there is ONE. Not exactly a flaw, but an angle, if taken care of, could have made the movie even more brilliant. But no point mentioning it unless some of you have seen it and can discuss!

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind - Wri. Charlie Kauffman
I realised that Kaufman is also the brain behind "Being John Malkovich", "Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind" and a lesser known brilliant movie called "Human Nature". Having seen all others, I had to pick up "Confessions..." straight away. And I wasn't disappointed at all. But "Confessions..." gains its impact from the fascinating life of Chuck Barris (An (in)famous game show creator of 60's and 70's), whose 'unauthorised' autobiography the film is based on, rather than the scripting brilliance of Kaufman (who obviously does a great job again!). It stars George Clooney too, who plays a character that possibly never existed in Chuck's life!... Fantastic film.

And yes, I also saw Airheads (Brendan Fraiser, Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi (of the tarantino group)). It was ok, decently entertaining, but didn't deserve a mention up there.

Intellectual Property - Beware