Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

This Friday I have difficult but worthwhile recommendations for you.

The film I'm recommending is Yesterday (South Africa 2004).

This is the first film ever filmed in the Zulu language. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and very thought-provoking on the topics of forgiveness, unconditional love and how one can choose to live life knowing the end is near, selfishly or selflessly.

I'm borrowing Jeff Shannon's review from Amazon as it's been too long since I saw the film to do it justice.
As beautiful as it is heartbreaking, the Oscar®-nominated drama Yesterday brings an intimate human perspective to the AIDS crisis in Africa. On the surface, it's a harsh and devastating story about bad things happening to good people, but such a limited description robs the film of its warmth and tender compassion. Best known for his 1995 drama Cry the Beloved Country, director Darrell James Roodt returns to his native South Africa for this moving and heartfelt portrait of a young, devoted mother named Yesterday (played by Leleti Khumalo, from Hotel Rwanda) who learns that she is HIV positive, and remains determined to stay alive until her young daughter Beauty (Lihle Mvelase) is old enough to go off to school. Her husband (Kenneth Khambula) is also stricken with AIDS, and Yesterday cares for him even as they are ostracized by fearful neighbors in their tiny Zulu village. One might expect a film about AIDS to be terribly depressing, and Roodt pulls no punches when conveying the emotional anguish of Yesterday's dilemma. But Yesterday is so visually beautiful in terms of its physical and spiritual landscape (it was filmed in the expansive KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa) that it's universally appealing, and the score by Madale Kunene adds just the right emotional seasoning to the film's ethnic roots. Anyone with a beating heart can relate to Yesterday's plight as a caring wife and mother, and Khumalo's performance is so lovely that she lights up the screen, even (and perhaps especially) during Yesterday's darkest hours. Without pounding on its point, Yesterday puts a human face on a global crisis that's too often viewed on impersonal terms. --Jeff Shannon
See won't regret it!

The book I'm recommending is Desert Flower by Waris Dirie.

Waris Dirie was born into a nomadic tribe in Somalia. At the age of 5 she was subjected to FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and at the age of 13 she ran away to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man. She eventually made it to London where she worked as a housemaid until she was discovered and catapulted to the status of "super model" in the 90s. Her book talks about her personal experiences but also focuses on the horror of FGM. She now works as a UN ambassador for women's issues, specifically FGM. I implore every woman to educate herself about FGM and this woman's personal account of its effect on her life is an excellent way to do so.

Some people would argue that it's not our place to impose our values on other cultures...I say that's bullshit. Some things are inherently wrong and should be stopped. FGM is one of those things. Please check out the UN page on FGM for more information as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year

Rocket Singh was not at all the movie I expected it to be.

So, let me take this opportunity to talk about the way some Hindi films are marketed. It seems to me that occasionally a film comes along that the producers are afraid to market for what it really is for one reason or another. Chance Pe Dance was marketed as a dance movie when it really isn't. It's a movie about a guy who wants to be an actor. Just because they had Shahid Kapoor they thought they had to market it as a dance movie I guess. I suppose, in that movie's case, they had to look for the best thing they had and go with it. Another film that comes to mind is Life in a Metro. I was really excited to see this film when I saw trailers for it. It looked like a nice, gushy film about various couples at different places in life. What I got when I finally watched it was a tawdry, infuriating film about people twisting love and mistaking physical intimacy for what's most important in life. (If you want to see the movie that Life in a Metro could have been see Playing by Heart) And now, Rocket Singh. The ads for this made it look like a high energy comedy of some sort. I was reluctant to see it because it looked like it would be slapstick and quite possibly ridiculous. Instead you have a thoughtful film that moves at a realistic pace. Nothing earth shattering happens and it's just about regular people going about their mundane lives but figuring out how to be as dignified and as happy as possible in the process. Now that is a movie I would have been anxious to see, a movie I really enjoyed once I overcame my misgivings caused by the ads. So what I'm saying is, don't be afraid of your films people! Especially just because they're not the typical BW fare, a good film will stand for itself. You do the films a disservice by marketing them based on what you think the audience wants to see. Market them properly and let them find their audience.

The main reason I decided to watch Rocket Singh, despite being wary of it based on the marketing, was Ranbir Kapoor. I believe he is definitely the best of Bollywood's younger generation of actors. He's that rarest of commodities...a really good actor. Beyond that, he's got the "it" factor. I don't think it's the super mega-star "it" factor of SRK but he's certainly more compelling than any of his peers and many of those who've been at it much longer *cough* Saif Ali Khan*cough* He has a great vulnerability about him and a genuineness that translates to his characters and really makes you care about them. I can't wait to see his future films. I especially want to see him play a grey character which, if the trailer for Rajneeti can be trusted, may be coming very soon.

On with the film review.... At first, Rocket Singh made me uncomfortable and, quite honestly, depressed me. I think it's because I identified with Harpreet so very much. He's a middle class boy being raised by his grandfather who graduates from college with below average grades. He passes the test to go for an MBA course but can't afford to pay for it so he goes out into the work world. He ends up in a shitty job that quickly sucks away any enthusiasm he had about entering the adult world and starts to change his attitude towards his life in general and his loved ones. The movie does a brilliant job of showing you what effect a horrible job can have on every aspect of your life and, as I once said about one of my jobs, can kill a little piece of your soul every day. Harpreet is a good guy and he gets punished mercilessly for doing the right thing. He finally decides to take things into his own hands and show those who have put him down that he is more than they have given him credit for.

Without getting into major spoilers, let me just say that Rocket Singh is a great example of how Bollywood can make movies that will appeal to an international audience without losing what makes them wonderful. It's a good story with a tight plot, good dialogue, believable characters and nothing over the top. There were a few instances in the plot where the characters had a choice to make. Had this been a Hollywood film, the characters would have gone with the cynical, negative choice. In this movie, however, they made the choice to trust, forgive, do the right thing and that is one of the best things about Hindi films. They have a hopefulness that the West has come to view as too uncool or unreal. (I'm really sad for us if hope has really become too "unreal" to even be portrayed in films. This is why I watch more Hindi films than American films these days.)

Overall, I thought Rocket Singh was a good, solid film. I identified with it and was interested in the characters and their journey. Ranbir gave a strong, engaging performance. The supporting cast was solid, especially Prem Chopra as Harpreet's grandfather. Rocket Singh tells you that you can't let other people's expectations of you write your destiny (nicely illustrated in a scene where the formerly slimy supervisor is misjudged by his new parters in Rocket Sales) Ultimately, it's a movie about not letting the world around you make you lose your self-respect, about getting the life you deserve the right way even when everything tells you you can't and about knowing that you're more than what's written in black and white and more than someone else's opinion.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday


Yesterday I saw the Doc,
Was better than bein at work watchin the clock,
I told him I think I'm dyin,
He told me to stop my cryin,
After all, if I pass away,
I won't have to work today!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday: Just Another Day in the Life

Just Another Day in the Life
It's Monday and the sky is a brilliant blue,
While walking to work I got gum on my shoe,
I stopped to pour myself some coffee,
Now there's a stain all over the front of me,
My boss got mad and ranted and raved,
My teeth are on edge, my nerves are frayed,
For everyone else this is a great day it's true,
But I might as well be stuck to the gum on my shoe.

Happy Monday y'all!!

Meeting Bono or Crap! Where are my pants? And my First U2 Concert

Well I warned you that U2 would be popping up here from time to time. As the two month countdown to their show in Denver (my 25th U2 show) begins, I felt like reflecting on my first U2 show and the weird turn of events that resulted in my meeting Bono earlier that same day whilst I was pantsless.

Growing up, I became aware of U2 via the incredible video for Sunday Bloody Sunday that was shot live during their now legendary concert at Red Rocks. I believe it was around the time that Joshua Tree came out though, not when War, the album the song is on, came out. I say that because my hometown didn't get cable TV until I was almost a teenager so I would not have seen them on MTV until around 1987 when Joshua Tree came out.

I remember very clearly sitting watching that video mesmerized. I had never seen such passion in anyone in my life. It didn't fully register then but it stayed with me in the back of my mind. Years later I remembered it when my friend Cheryl undertook my U2 conversion.

It was the summer of 1996. I had just completed my junior year of college and Cheryl had just graduated. I was at home wasting away with panoramic views of corn fields and the drone of cicadas my only entertainment. Cheryl was spending the summer in Champaign where we both went to school. I wanted to spend some time with her before she moved to Chicago and I wanted something, anything, to do. So off I went to spend the weekend with her. There would be drinking and dancing and general summer fun! Not so much. Somehow, we ended up staying in, playing U2 albums and talking nearly all night about U2, of whom she was already a longtime fan. I was blown away by the poetry of the lyrics from album to album, the spirituality that made me feel for once in my life like I wasn't alone with the questions I had. It was a deep conversation, the kind you have in college about life and God and all the really big things.

Not long after that evening, the album Pop came out. I immediately bought it and fell in love with it. Little did I know that U2 purists hated it and had no idea what to make of it. (I still maintain that it is one of their best, most meaningful albums.) After Pop, I started buying their back catalogue as well as any book about them that I could get my hands on. Over the course of that school year, I developed a full scale obssession. Luckily for me, they embarked on a world tour that would bring them to Chicago in the summer of 1997. My roommate and I got tickets in the nosebleed section of Soldier Field and prepared for our trip.

I was so obssessed at this point that I was wishing on stars (seriously) that I would meet the band and looking for omens in everything. When we pulled out of the parking garage headed to Chicago and almost hit a bird Dahlia, my roommate, convinced me that it was a Persian omen of good luck (What can I say? I was grasping at straws! or was I?)

My best friend Brad was also going to Chicago that weekend so we agreed to meet up with him and share a hotel room. U2 was doing 3 shows in Chicago and Cheryl was going to the show the night before Dahlia and I. We agreed to meet up the day of my show to catch up and chat.

When we arrived in Chicago we first went to meet Dahlia's mom for shopping at Bloomingdales. We were enjoying it but, at the same time, itching to get away and try to find out where the band was staying so we could stalk them. We ended up on a wild goose chase out to a hotel near O'Hare airport. Oh how naive I was back then. I now know that they were staying across the street from Bloomingdales! Grr.

The morning of show day I was antsy and couldn't sleep despite being out late the night before. I was up early before Brad and Dahlia. I switched on MTV for something to do and what comes on? Where the Streets Have No guessed it...Omen! That was it! I couldn't stand it anymore. Didn't my friends realize that U2 was out there somewhere in the city and we were wasting time laying around in the hotel? Like a kid at Christmas, I harrassed Brad and Dahlia until they got up and we agreed to hit the beach. Probably not much chance of seeing Bono, Adam, Edge and Larry hangin' at the beach but it was better than sitting in the hotel. I called Cheryl and she said she would meet us at the entrance to Navy Pier.

We got settled at the beach, leaving Brad to bake himself in the sun. At the appointed time, I donned a T-shirt over my bathing suit and Dahlia a pair of shorts with her bikini top and we ventured forth to meet Cheryl at the nearby Pier. I suppose it should have occured to me that Navy Pier was not an appropriate place to walk around seemingly pantsless but it didn't.

We waited and waited but Cheryl didn't show. We thought maybe she had misunderstood and had gone to the beach instead. So, we headed back towards the beach all the while talking about U2. I was telling Dahlia that I wanted to meet them so badly that I kept looking at random strangers we passed thinking they were members of the band. She jokingly pointed to a guy on a bike and said, "Yeah, like that guy on that bike over there is Bono." I looked, out of reflex, only to realize that it was, in fact, Bono riding a bike!! I was speechless. All I could do was stand there mouth agape slapping Dahlia on the shoulder as I waited for my mouth to catch up with my brain. Finally, I was able to spit it out. She turned to look at me in disbelief and asked me what we should do? Follow him!! So we did! Trying to nonchalantly speed walk after a rock star on a bike is not easy. The nonchalant part is especially difficult when you finally realize that you are in a very public place and very without pants.

As he was on his bike and we were walking, he was quickly getting away from us. So, we decided to cut across the middle of the pier and "head him off at the pass" as he came around the other side. It was hot out, I was out of breath and sunburned, slathered in greasy sunscreen and pantsless but as I stood there gasping, he rode by. Realizing we'd recognized him,he smiled and said "Hey." We freaked...quietly. As sanity returned, we knew we had to run back to the beach for a camera. You might think I also took a moment to put my shorts on at this would be wrong. And let me add that I was wearing a really old bathing suit that had very little elastic left so it kept riding up my butt.

As we were coming back to secretly photograph Bono sitting outside at a cafe, we ran into Cheryl who was also very excited. I assumed her excitement was because she too had spotted him. I asked her if she had seen "him". She said no without asking me who "him" was then quickly explained she had gotten us 3rd row tickets to the show that night! That in and of itself was mind-blowing so there was much screaming and jumping up and down. Then it finally occured to Cheryl to ask me who "him" was. I told her Bono was sitting about 100 feet behind her and like Road Runner in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon, she was off like a shot.

I have no excuse for what I did next other than I was dying and convinced that I NEEDED a lemonade to survive. I thought Cheryl would wait but she didn't (and in my right mind I wouldn't have either). By the time I procured the life-saving lemonade and Dahlia and I got to his table, he was politely ending his conversation with Cheryl. In hindsight, I suppose it was all for the best though. The moment I was standing there so close to him, I felt like if I opened my mouth a scalding torrent of vomit would rise up and spew forth upon him and his table. He makes me that nervous. So, I suppose everyone involved was better off that I didn't try to talk to him. Still, I have been kicking my own ass for years. Lemonade?! Really?!

We headed back to the hotel soon after to get ready for the that night's show but not before driving by his table and taking pictures from the car like stalkerazzi (with a circa 1997 35mm film camera made of plastic and purchased at K-Mart no less). Funniest thing is, after we returned to Champaign and I had the pictures developed, I discovered one of him sitting there as a guy in a U2 T-shirt walks right by having no idea he just walked past Bono.

People have asked me over the years why I didn't go back and ask for a picture with him. Honestly, when I admire someone as much as I do Bono I care about them as much as you can care about someone you don't really know. I understand that for them to have a moment of anonymity like that is a very rare thing. I never want to be the person who ruins that for them just so I can get something for my own selfish reasons. It's much more important to me that they have that peaceful moment than it is for me to have a picture that every time I look at it will make me wonder if they were resenting me for bothering them. Believe it or not, we were the only ones during the time that we were there, who recognized him. But I digress.

There were so many great things about that evening. One of my favorites, which I'll never forget, was walking into Soldier Field to our seats. This was in 1997 before Soldier Field was desecrated by that hideous spaceship-looking renovation and before U2 did General Admission for floor seats. It wasn't long until show time and the majority of people were already in their seats on the floor and in the stadium. It wasn't like today when those of us closest to the stage are the first ones in the stadium and we spend hours watching as it slowly fills. We walked onto the floor at the opposite end of the field from the stage and we just kept walking. Past rows and rows of chairs and people we walked. Ushers would stop us about every 50 feet, check our tickets and tell us to keep going like we were VIPS or something. It was AWESOME! I remember looking up and all around me as we got closer and closer to the enormous stage and being awed by the size of the stadium from the vantage point of the field. Finally, there we were, 3rd row! Of course, that didn't last long. We quickly picked a spot right on the rail and acted like we belonged there praying we wouldn't get tossed by security. I stood there in disbelief that I was going to be that close to the band and all that had happened that day. Standing there on the field waiting, the sun began to set and it was a truly beautiful sight to behold as it came shining through the old columns of that classic building. The weather was warm but there was a cool breeze coming in off the lake and it was one of those perfect moments you know you'll never forget.

Of the show, I could say a lot but what it boils down to is that it was a religious experience. People may think that sounds hokey but until you've been to a U2 show, you won't understand. There's a reason that their live shows are legendary. Unlike any other band in the world, U2 can take 60,000-70,000 people or more and make them feel a kind of harmony with each other that I don't think any of us has ever felt before. Every person there feels the immense size of the event and yet also feels like they are having a personal moment with the band that no one else is having. And no matter what your religious beliefs, you will feel a spirit moving through the crowd that defies any other explanation. (Google "U2 concert religious experience" and see how many hits you get.) It's truly a magical thing to experience.

Since that night, I have seen U2 23 more times in 10 cities, 10 states and 2 countries. I have waited in line at certain shows for up to 36 hours for that coveted spot on the rail all for what may only be a moment of eye contact with Bono. But that one moment is worth everything it took to get there. I've made friends waiting in U2 lines, some who have been in my life now for 13 years. I have journeyed to Dublin and Death Valley on pilgrimages that every die-hard fan must undertake. I have touched the Joshua Tree from the album cover and, yes, even cried when they played a song live that I never thought I would hear in person. I've had the chance to meet all of them now. I finally got that close to Bono again. I still didn't say much but at least I didn't barf on him and now I can stop kicking my own ass. U2, the men and their music, mean more to me than I can explain. I can't wait to hit the road in June to see them again before this latest tour ends. It'll be a long 4-5 years waiting for them to come back and if they would decide not to...I have great memories that will last a lifetime. Also, I can always stalk Bono at his home in the south of France.

Pictures from that first show:

Jerry, U2's personal security, who I have been in love with since I took this picture. He leaned forward during the show to whisper (Yell is more accurate I suppose but whisper is so much more intimate) in my ear that I had my finger over the camera lens.

If he hadn't, I would have missed this shot which Bono actually stopped and posed for

The famous Popmart lemon

The stage after the show

Dahlia, Me and Cheryl after the show

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Bad Poetry Monday: Inaugural Edition

So, Mondays suck right? It's the first day back at work after the weekend. You're usually tired from trying to enjoy your weekend freedom and the week stretches out before you like eternity in purgatory.

Years ago I had a job that was miserable, not so long ago I had a miserable one too but that's neither here nor there. At the long ago miserable job, I used to write purposefully bad poetry about absurd or mundane topics to entertain my coworkers. The collection, as a whole, is called "The Itty Bitty Book of Bitter Poetry" I thought I would share them here on my blog.

Maybe you'll find them amusing enough to give you something to smile about when you have a case of the "Mondays". The first rule of bad poetry is, of course, that no matter what verbal contortions you have to go through, your poem MUST rhyme so keep that in mind!

With no further ado, I give you...


Life it seems to me is rather dull and grey,
There's nothing I can think of to brighten up my day,
I think I'll go home and lay on the couch,
I'll stare at the wall and sit with a slouch,
I have low self-esteem I say to you,
Things couldn't get worse if I were a big ball of goo.

If you have a topic you'd like a poem about, please leave a comment and I will endeavor to write you a poem so lacking in quality and style that you can't help but feel better about yourself that you didn't write it.

The Eros Voice: I Know What He Wants and I'm Here to Warn You

I was watching the Ten Commandments this weekend and thinking, of course, about the voice of God. As Moses was talking to the burning bush I couldn't help but think of the voice of Eros Entertainment. You know the one I'm talking about. It compels you, it whispers to you in the dark and haunts your every waking moment.

Who is the voice? Where does he live? Does he work for Eros? Is he an enigmatic figure haunting the offices of Eros like the Phantom of the Opera? Does he know the UTV hand lady? What is this power he has over us?

I remembered the first time I fell under his powerful spell and decided to go back for a visit. I popped in the DVD of Om Shanti Om, sat back on my couch and expected a simple movie, instead I was thrust into a world of infinite and, well, vague possibilities. Or so I thought. It gradually became clear to me that a vast and frightening conspiracy has been at work in Bollywood for years and we are nearing the hour when these evil plans will be executed unless we can stop he who speaks but has no name!

First we are drawn through the cosmos almost against our will

to a place high above our home planet, Earth.

Suddenly, a divine light bursts from all the major land masses and like a volcano gives birth to new land, the Eros banner is thrust onto the screen with a fancy ribbon and two spotlights provided by God? the voice?

Then a montage begins and the voice hearkens to us, taking us all the way back to 1977. He then begins to recount the Eros story and the thrall they have held us in lo these past 33 years (the age of Christ when he died by the way. Coincidence?) They have made us laugh

(interesting poster child for laughter) they've forced our tears

they've made us stop and wonder why (just like me right now! This is getting eerie), they've made us feel the highs and touch the skies (WHO is this poetic, manipulator of emotions? Kyun?!)

Then the voice dazzles us with new fangled technology, digital convergence and new media! Then it reveals it's true bring about the one world government, see?!

Not just that, but it says it will take all of this to a new dimension! Is the voice a Traveller like in Star Trek? Has he achieved interdimensional travel? Will he take me with him? or is he taking Leo?

My God!! He's got Leo! Nahiiiin!!

Then, to my horror, like a veil being lifted from my eyes, the true nature of all this was revealed to me. The voice! The voice itself is responsible for the Indian diaspora (Eros is simply a front, you see) and now that it has disbursed Indians all over the world, it will be forcing the rest of the world to inhabit India.

And somehow Pierce Brosnan figures into his plot. Diabolical!!

Integrated studio model and global distribution seem to be the code words for this operation. We are being led like cattle to the slaughter I tell you!! There is then a series of subliminal messages embedded in the video to make us docile and complacent. As we sit hypnotized, the voice then tells us to prepare for the "quantum leap." So that trip through the cosmos, flying unprotected through space, is exactly what the voice has planned for all of us. We are being desensitized by being forced to watch this over and over so we won't struggle when our time to leap dimensions comes.

Once I woke from my OSO stupor and while I still had enough free will to do so, I did some more investigating into this vast conspiracy and what I found was cause for even more alarm. This secret information is hidden in plain sight on the internet . Pay particular attention to the way the voice has infiltrated everywhere and is not afraid to publicize it!!

"The group has its own worldwide offices in India, UK, USA, Middle East, Australia, Fiji and further liaison offices to service Bollywood fans in every nook and corner of the world. Eros has truly emerged as a leader in helping the World's largest Film Industry, reach all parts of the World."

Film industry?! I'm onto you Mr. Voice!

We have very little time left!! The voice is working on a 5 year timetable that started in July 2006

See what he's done there? He knows people are attracted to sparkly things.

"Eros aims to expand over next 5 years through increased distribution abroad, selling film content in formats, which can be viewed on the Internet and via mobile phones, and distributing the digital movies in India. EROS is truly taking Bollywood Places"

It's all just code for how he will remove us from our homes and transfer all of us to India where he can keep us corralled like sheep!

I also found older DVDS before this brainwashing program was put into use to prepare us for displacement. The groundwork for this forced removal has been being laid for years with other propaganda ads.

He tried magic first before technology and quantum physics.

"Spell-binding spectacles"

"Magnificence beyond belief"

"Irresistible charm"

..."the magical trance of Bollywood"

For 25 years, one name has cast the spell of Bollywood across the globe (name? Try one voice!). Insidious!!

At first I think he wanted to destroy the world all together.

Then, for some reason he changed his mind and decided to send Desis out into the world to ultimately take over.

See how he flaunts his magic

See how he has bribed Desis to leave India

it builds and builds until finally he tell us his ultimate purpose, the reason behind it all, the master plan is to be "taking bollywood....places"

wah, wah, wahhh. Huh?...big build up...tiny payoff, right? (That's What She Said) But you see, he was lulling us into a false sense of security with this vagueness. He didn't want to alarm us until he came back in his new technological avatar. He is still taking Bollywood to these mysterious and non-specific "places" he spoke of but now you and I know that those places are our homes, schools, parks and playgrounds.

Global domination is more like it.

So, who is the voice and why does he want to do this to us? I still have no answer to those questions. The answers I seek now are so much more important than that. How do we stop him? How much time do we have left? If I fail, can I have dibs on Mannat? These are the questions that haunt me.