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Sunday, January 29, 2017

La La Land and Hamilton Walker's and Casablanca



That  La la Land is a grand movie has been proclaimed by many reviewers and moviegoers, and it has been nominated for many awards. And it so deserves them all. The movie validates art and artists and rebels and liberals without whom we will be rather poor in mind, and in hope, and raises "love" to a level and a time that is at once in the past but very much in the present. It embraces drive and ambition in both man and woman, effectively making those very necessary parts of that ethereal, romantic thing called "dream". It is a movie about movies and stars. About a city of stars and "stars".
a movie that shows the power of imagination, its ability to dream, to plan, and to re-imagine the past, return to the present. it celebrates coincidences shamelessly, plants imagined memories, deja vu feelings with gleeful abandonment, much to my delight. After all, as  I keep saying, a movie is a construct. And so are we. And time goes by! All of which makes one think again that life is but a dream. That the world is a stage. Where all of us are stars in our own little movies, big movies - tragedies, comedies, adventure, drama, horror, disaster and so on. (well, back to my old hope - what if we can really lead those virtual lives? :) )
Mia's song


Aside: If I sound less than enthusiastic, please know that it is not the fault of this earnest, sincere, hopeful, youthful movie. It is me, this jaded old person who  cannot really identify with young lovers following their dreams, with hope and passion, although I have to say, in spite of my passionless head, I liked the movie, and I would recommend it. And I can imagine a young Asha being wowed by it, being immersed in it, swimming in it!

Last week we went to this new restaurant in town, Hamilton Walker's. I knew it took up some space in that intersection, but was a little surprised when I stepped in. I am all for ambience, and this one unexpectedly made me feel like I had gone back in time. Like I was in one of those black and white movies set in New York, in one of their swanky restaurants with  jazz band. There was no jazz band even a piano here, but just Dean Martin's seductive voice floating over the soft voices. But that was enough, with the cozy dark seats and dark wood, and murals on the walls, it was quite pleasant.

Then I saw La La Land. The songs and the dances. The hero and the heroine. Mia and Sebastian. Wow! And the ending. At "Seb's". The jazz band. The gin joint. Hamilton Walker's? what a charming coincidence! :) though I have no one waiting inside!  "Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine." Mia walks into Seb's. As I am walking out of the theater, I remember the mention of Casablanca by Mia. Ingrid Bergman's picture on the wall. Casablanca in modern times. Albeit without the intrigue, excitement, and suspense of a war, espionage and the ambience of it all. The fear, the urgent life and death atmosphere of the times.

here, the gin joint owner is a gifted pianist. Like that other old role of the vamp now usurped by heroines, maybe this one has been taken too. But that s fine. as they all do it so well! As their eyes meet, it's the pianist who must have said, "here's looking at you, kid!" Curiously, in true time flipping, movie history timeline twister style, it seems as if La la Land ends where Casablanca begins.
Casablanca- Sam, the pianist, Rick, and Ilsa


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

US Election 2016

Trump triumphs.

I remember budding scientists lamenting the loss of funds for scientific research back in the Bush era. Money was used for funding wars, they said. It  was as if some wanted to  bring  everyone down - to a certain basic business level. As if they had something against literacy, against higher studies, against art, humanity, its evolution, progress towards  better, equal world for all classes, races, sexes. That they were trying to produce and maintain a group of drones and peons for their massive corporate and military structures . It was a giant leap backward into the Middle Ages, where only a handful should enjoy the perks of being rich and powerful, and that included the Church. The servant should be happy and content being servants, and obey the Masters .I know I am being naiively idealistic, and I know all politicians are just that, in the end -- politicians. A skewed sense of morality and goodness is part of the game, the only difference being in degree and kind. For instance, neither party has done anything significant to stem the rising cost of higher education in this country, so as to make it accessible to everyone. And, successful businessmen in this world have to be even greater politicians if they want to succeed, I would think. Maybe that will work in America's favor with the new President.

However, I can't help being worried for that budding scientist, and artist now, boy and girl. I hope this is not a giant step backwards for America, and for the world which looks onto America, to imitate, to garner support for their own agendas. One thing I am sure about is that the Indian girl suffered a hefty loss. Sexism does not exist, many say around here and in India. Wake up, moms and dads, especially Indian, sexism, misogyny exists - is openly flaunted, in the name of religion, culture, and tradition, in countries like India. People like Trump become role models there, sadly, all for the wrong reasons. For, to them, he stands for fundamentalism, jingoism, racism, white supremacy, and a lot of other backward thinking attitudes. But why should Americans care, huh? As per Trump, and his followers, it is not America's problem. That kind of isolationism is scary. like someone said, (well, a character in a movie )with great power comes great responsibility. Being world police just for economic gains is, to say the least, irresponsible. Human rights is not just a catch phrase to be bandied about for one's own gains.

2008- Race won then, when the Democrats chose Obama over Hillary. Even then we heard sexist and ageist comments from Obama himself, and no one cared. I hoped that he would be a bridger of gaps, when he became President, and it was time, the race issue had to be addressed. Of course, in the current campaign,  she was dehumanized, as is the usual case, when women try to step out of their prescribed sphere, when any marginalized, and/or colonized being would attempt to become uppity. They are either burned at the stake, branded as witches, or crucified. Still, she fought valiantly. It is amazing how much fight she had in her, how much she wanted what she wanted, and how much she was ready to fight for, in this world run by men. I am awed by her tenacity, her persistence, and above all, her brilliant mind.

 I console myself, thinking they are all politicians, that they break up and make up for their own purposes. That they are all united in their race for success, money, and power.
The losers are the common people, generations of boys and girls. Humanity lost a chance to go forward. To that ideal world of inclusion, unity, equality and enlightenment. We lost the fight against bigotry, ignorance, and class. America blew a chance to make history, to be  role model for all the growing boys and girls of the world. But then, who knows! Ever the hopeful person that I am, maybe now that he has won, after having used every trick, every misogynistic, bigoted, exclusivist idea to woo and win a huge hate-filled section of this country, acting as if he was part of the servant class, when he assumes office, Trump, along with his Trumpets/Trumpettes, will show who he really is. Which side he will support, which country he will lean on, who he will put first, to serve his purpose, which, I hope, is as noble as he thinks it is. After all, it is all a show, and he is the greatest showman of them all!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The allure of the Spirit World and of other worlds: Kung fu Panda 3 (2016)





Where do I begin? How do I describe the picturesque beauty of this fantastic movie? Shall I describe the green skies and golden clouds touching tall mountains, and the elaborately, intricately carved Jade Palace set at the  top of those seemingly endless steps, or the blue-leaved trees along the way to Po's ancestral village,   the secret green green Panda village nestled in that valley past the tall frozen waterfall, where in the evening, red lanterns glimmer and in the day, baby pandas roll down green hills, and around with huge butterfly kites ...Maybe I should  swoon over the detailed depiction of the colorful interiors of the homes, the weaves of the rugs, the stacks of porcelain bowls, the pots filled with dumplings.  or shall I sing songs of praise for the golden shiny Spirit Realm where Oogway resides now, a fabulous place which you reach riding a swirling pool of pink petals, and where the chubby panda Po becomes the true Dragon  Warrior - flaming - literally in a translucent fiery dragon form, trailing a golden silk cape behind him, enjoying it all, so proud and happy that we tear up. I had loved the first two movies in this series ,and I was waiting for this one - did not disappoint me at all. I am reminded of that other movie with its cozy little farm  in that lush green valley, where a bright little pig named Babe lived with his farmer friend. Another movie that enchants.

And then there is Kai - the villain. The one who steals the "chi" of all the great Kung fu masters. Like a psychopathic vehicle of the god of Death,  a bully bull on steroids, he saunters along, swinging metal chains in each muscular hands to the beat of his special music. The Dragon Master is the only one who can subdue him, send him back to the Spirit World. And only once he himself learns the art of giving "chi". A lot of, maybe cliche'd wisdom is strewn around the whole narrative - like those annoying posts on twitter and facebook and whatnot - the boring declarations of the very obvious, but here, I didn't mind at all. Stating the obvious becomes an art in here! for they all fit the story line perfectly. For instance, "The more you take, the less you have". "You cannot be anything unless you try doing something you don not know". 'Know who you are" - and "you are not just one thing - you are a mix of many, and so being you, and your best selves, will make it all work." And of course the way it all works out in the end - the selfless act of Po, his sacrifice for his friends, and the courage and support of his friends in turn. Many lessons are given and learned all along as Po finds his true self - as in "I knew it! I haven't eaten to my full potential!"

 But what made me smile happily was when I heard the old teacher in the Spirit World, perched up among the blossoms of his tree, answers  Po's question as to whether he can go back to the mortal world, with a smile - "Who knows! I never tried!" Obviously he doesn't want to! What a wonderful, hopeful option of a life after death! To me the writers are incredibly clever - able to create such endearing, splendid characters as these warriors and their relatives and friends - among whom is one Mei mei the champion ribbon dancer who cannot be accused of being a humble wall flower! And the two dads of the hero, and the ducks and the rabbits and the intrepid pig who produces instant portraits under any conditions, and the rope bridges that connect tall peaks over cool rivers and the greens and the blues, and the golds, and the pinks......The warmth and the cold, the fire and the snow. It all comes together to give us a spectacular, grand experience. The "chi" flows - flowers bloom, magic happens, all's well with the world! I am sure even the hardened grown up would sit there with wonder-filled eyes  and a happy smile.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

An old man, a little home near the sea, and Roger : Mr Holmes (2015)



To think that I might have missed this one! If not for a post on a facebook page! And the post was made by an expert in the business. I don't know if this movie was showed in the local theater. But I am thankful that it was available in our library.

Mr Holmes is 93 years old now. Yes, THE Mr Holmes - of the Sherlock denomination. And yes, the movie begins with that romantic old train, my weakness. :) And he lives in this beautiful home in that beautiful countryside, the typical English one with all its greens and flowers and stone walls and country kitchen complete with a cozy housekeeper who is busy with carrots and cabbages and stews and teas. For me, even those mundane oranges and greens and blues work to enhance the whole movie watching experience. The movie is a sensual feast, even though there is no sexy romance in there of nubile young beings. Only the loneliness and the regrets of an old man who once had the sharpest of intellects, who had lived his life by the tenets of pure logic. And that scary curse of old age - the slow deterioration of the mind - the loss of memory.

However, it is Sherlock Holmes. You do not expect him to give in without a fight! That, maybe, one last hurrah.  He finds a perfect partner in crime in the young Roger - the fatherless son of the sad, bitter, no-nonsense housekeeper. Their conspiratorial relationship is fascinating, as is their fight for the good bees against the evil wasps. And the solving of two mysteries, one of which involves the woman in his last case. I particularly liked the way the past is told - by Holmes himself, through his diary, by Roger reading the same - simply clever and not at all intrusive. But even though while I watched the movie, everything blended into a whole object that is the character Holmes, something about his relationship -- or I should call it the "non-relationship"  that never was, but should have been-- between him and that tragic young woman, lingers. Like Holmes says, his logical analysis did not help her - nor did his own fear and pride help - neither him nor her. Even though he knew they were kindred souls - two lonely hearts who could have been lonely together. The great Holmes realizes it late in life, like many a common man or woman! Makes him one of us. But this realization helps him in resolving the other mystery - this time with feeling and imagination - both which he had spurned before. He can grieve for Watson at last!

The slow loss of his memory, for Holmes, does not turn out to be a total loss -  the childless, Watson-less, Holmes gains a son and gets in touch with his feelings. As does the mother of the boy. It is all so simple - a simple story about an almost (by now) mythical character, but it is written well, and made well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To God or Not to God

I know most of us have been there - at some point - where we wonder at the reality of reality. Is the world real? Am I real? What are we doing here? Where is the end? The beginning? And should we believe in a Creator/God? Should we follow a religion/"Godding" (my coinage)? Hence, to God, or not to God.

I think. Therefore I am. But my question is does S/HE/IT (IT could stand for internet too :))  think? If S/HE/IT thought, and given that the S/HE/IT is an all powerful magician, (omg! I just looked at S/HE/IT, and realize another way of reading it!) , and all good, the said God can make it all right in the world for every one of us! So how come God doesn't do that? Oh, free will. Whose, I wonder! God's, of course. But can't God think? Can God think? Back to the circle.  If God doesn't think, God doesn't exist. If God thinks, God exists. If God chooses not to think, which explains the misery of mankind, then do we need a thoughtless God like that?

If free will is the basis of faith in God, then shouldn't I be  my own God? As long as I don't act God to others that should be ok?

In any case, "Godding" or religion is a club. Its members have the ability to network - to make lucrative or other social connections. Mutual back scratching and/or back -stabbing. A major area of power plays, and intrigues, and abuse of powers. One common goal seems to be about control over the female sex. The religions differ only in degrees in this area. Obviously the clubs do some good too, esp in the charity field, but they  always have  their own survival and propaganda as their main agenda. Along with other vested interests. These clubs are not that different from nations, Specifically the colonizing ones. With all its ramifications.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall again, and a paean to Champaign



Did I say I love fall? Sure, I did! what's not to love about this enchanting drama queen! No tantrums, just a dazzling display from a colorful diva! Her flying, flitting shining leaves shake as she twirls in her jewel toned sequin-layered skirt, not caring if some frills and sequins fall, at times with a dramatic sigh. There are the heaps of fallen leaves, like multi-colored candy wrappers, like crunchy pappadams, or crab rangoons.  and in between there are a few green leaved trees - stubbornly resisting- to- turn old timers -- and then  those wall flower types who wish they would turn like the others,( I am sure!) Every year, fall, to me, is a carnival.

This year's fall is extra special. I am in a new city. So it's a city Fall. And neither the city nor the season have disappointed me yet. Champaign is made for this season! Its paved streets dotted with old world lamps  are a good setting for these painted ladies and gents to make a spectacle of themselves! This city has parks ( I haven't seen this many squirrels anywhere!) on most streets, sidewalks in all parts, it has little lakes that soothe you, and old homes that evoke old memories. The little town is eminently walkable and the little shops and cafes, endearing. I loved its little Oktoberfest, with its Apple Saison beer that tasted like Fall, as much as like apple pie. And the farmer's market that introduced me to Autumn Berry jams and relishes that reminded me of those good old days back home, back when I was a child.

 And then there is the University with its libraries and stadiums and theaters. I feel I have come off my (self-imposed, I guess) exile into a new world!
As I walk beneath these trees flamboyant in their drool-worthy candy leaves, as usual, I long to absorb it all. As the cozy cool wind and the equally cozy but warm sun hit the leaves, and then touch me, I am so happy that I can almost taste the sensual feast!