Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Browns Front Line vs. The African Who Can vs. The Blind Man Who Can Sing vs. The Rich Man Who Can Fly


(You'll have to excuse me: I just saw "Hotel Rwanda" and "Bride and Prejudice" baked-to-back, and I'm suffering from huge-burger + huge-fruit-custard-for-dessert style indigestion...)


But with the Oscar-glow fading (and Sean Penn finally untying Chris Rock from a chair after beating him with a rubber-ducky while watching Jude Law movies), the middle-finger is put away in favour of my two-thumbs: it's movie review time.

Bride and Prejudice

Director Gurinder Chadha - of well-deserved "Bend It Like Beckham" fame, is calling her own plays now, and throwing Hail-Mary's while falling out of bounds as Coach Harvey Weinstein tears his hair out and tears into another cheeseburger.

Her QB rating is a respectable 75% with a couple of idea-interceptions, so it's an admirable performance... but this time she doesn't win the Super Chutney Bowl MVP.

That's not to say it's a bad movie - it's a lot of fun, it's just not a great one. So, it falls into a "see it" but don't expect to be Bent over backwards like Beckham did ya.

I'll give you what you can't get from other reviews here... some BKB funk...


Brownsville - Don't just shout-out things that brown people will laugh at because they are already familiar, you've got to explain more for a wider audience for this kind of picture. You've got a couple of excellent comic foils in the on-screen white people curious about our culture, including the male lead Martin Henderson (who's kind of like what if Bill Pullman was a pretty-boy), and they could've been used better.

A few too many nods to the assumed-familiar had me laughing in spots, but I was also painfully aware that others would have some trouble. I'm not saying you shouldn't proudly shout-out everything you just did, but you need more unique twists on the ideas as opposed to getting credit for just mentioning them - and in a few cases, leaving those familiar with Indian culture and Bollywood to make their own jokes.


Aishwarya Rai - I found her!

Ironically, this was the first movie of hers that I've seen (as a coconut I haven't watched much Bollywood - but she makes a great metaphor), and that was wicked. She's anime-hot (and kind of like what if you properly inflated supermodel Linda Evangelista), Julia Roberts called her "the most beautiful woman in the world", and she's a hell of an actress too - carrying us emotionally through a wild cross-continental love quadrangle. She's also holdin' it down for all the curvy-cuties out there who don't have pricey personal-trainers - a niche market I know, but I wish her best of luck... :)


It's very strange to see a soft-body-hottie on the big screen, as traces of tummy appear in several scenes, and it's unusual for any big-time American actress to allow for that. I've also seen Western-starlet outfits modeled on life-size mannequin busts at the Warner Studio lot in L.A., and man are our celeb-chicks freakishly tiny. (I guess it's a pick'em, and given the choice... I pick both.) Since most brown girls who don't work-out like crazy are softer-bodied on average than other girls, she's keepin' it real and real-Desi, and she still looks real-good.


BTW, this ain't just a brown-girl thing, after millenia of following a fairly peaceful set of Hin-do's and Hin-don't's, the guys have gotten a bit soft too. (No offense to the big-brown guys who can kick my ass.)

India is the only large country in the world that never attacked another in it's history - no pillaging, no "crusades", etc. We still fought internally, we just never made a habit of going somewhere, meeting someone new, and saying: "I wanna kick your ass!!!"

We gave Buddha away, we made steak'n'kidney pudding taste good, and we gave Jesus a place to chill-out after he finished making that Mel Gibson movie.

So, brown guys aren't exactly in fighting-shape either.

Want proof?

One-billion people, and every year... a half-dozen Olympic medals.


(I've been working on my abs myself... I got one so far! Yeah!!! ;)


NOTE: A friend just emailed me this fact which I corroborated it with the link below...

...I think it was a bad idea... but Janet Jackson did it for Poetic Justice... but America knew who Janet-lite was... but this just seems silly... like the almost-kissing scenes where they go in for a kiss... stop... and hug... why go for it if they don't kiss...?


Q - Why has Ash gained weight?

A - I felt it was more suitable for my character in Bride & Prejudice to not look like a fashion model, so I gained 20 pounds in hopes of making the role more realistic. I am now on a diet, but it was more fun to gain than it is to lose... :)


Hotel Rwanda

"Welcome, to the Hotel, California..." this ain't.

Instead, it's a harrowing tale of a country's incomprehensible descent into madness based on artificial cultural divisions.

(Kind of like Fahrenheit 9/11... except completely different.)


The acting is uniformly stellar as they manage to naturalize a very unfamiliar Africa on-screen, the story is told straight-up, and is taught and gripping, as hints of impending violence constantly surround the hotel-turned-Tutsi-sanctuary. The actual violence is kept to a minimum - which is great, since the few scenes they show are stomach-turning enough, and it's best that this movie be seen by as many as possible. I don't think "keeping it real" by trying to show anything close to a million people being slaughtered makes any sense - any more then extended gas-chamber scenes in "Schindler's List" would make that a better film.

The moral is also far more universal than: "Man is Africa screwed up!", as the bitter legacy of colonialism lives on, and the pent up frustrations of any people will erupt into an orgy of violence if given the time and the outlet: a word to the wise for any society looking the other way too long.

Don Cheadle is magnificent as Paul Rusesabagina, whose guts and cunning are the only thing that saved 1000 people from being slaughtered mercilessly - and joining the million that were. His journey from adopting Western culture as the superior-norm to realizing their fleeting-loyalty as they desert him and the people of Rwanda, is heartbreaking. He is made stronger for it, and realizes that even if he plays by their rules better than they do, when push comes to shove (and perhaps because he conformed with such willing relish) he'll never really be one of them - nor should he be.

The only minor-issue I have is the use of Hollywood "movie-music" in certain scenes, as classic (cliched?) strained-refrains are used to augment the tension along with African music. Using the same music that might prompt Rhett Butler to say: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!" seems out of place here in (darkest) Africa. While the emotions resurrected are familiar, sometimes they subtly take us out of the setting by tapping into classic Hollywood "I'm feeling bad for the characters" feelings, the same ones as seeing J-Lo grab her Swiffer and almost lose Ralph Fiennes forever - until of course, she doesn't. I think if they stuck to their African-musical-guns they would've been fine, as the entire situation was so tense that even a Western audience would've hardly been affected by subtle unfamiliar background music.


This (sort of thing) is also what I hated about "Scarface" - the bad 80's music. It's still great, but that crap didn't help make it a classic gangster movie. (Imagine the same used in "The Godfather"?) Any music with lyrics can easily detract from any movie unless it's meant to be a crucial part of it: I ain't crappin' on "Saturday Night Fever" or "8 Mile" for the same - so don't universalize this principle in order to destroy it.

It can certainly be done well, and our brains will fondly remember Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight" on the TV show "Miami Vice"; Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" from "Say Anything"; or "Stuck In The Middle With You" from Pulp Fiction. As 50 Cent noted: "Music marks time", so nothing will be the same as the time as the first time you heard favourites in enjoyable contexts, and each generation will have trouble being objective about the past.


Hearing screaming rock music while Ben Affleck leapt around in rubber-tights in "Daredevil" was atrocious, and made a bad movie far worse. Sticking with lyric-free music that's unnoticeable save for improving the quality of a scene is a safer bet in general, and better than playing through the pain of bad choices.



You know, a friend of mine recently saw it, and she said despite the the fact that the movie portrayed him in the best light possible: "He was still such a total asshole!"

I quickly pointed out the irony: "If that's true, do you really think they portrayed him in the best light possible?"

With naturally negative people, sometimes you just can't win.


Jamie Foxx deserves props: he was incredible, he deserves the Oscar.


The movie is fairly linear, but the style works to tell such a fascinating story of a kid learning to play piano just before going blind at age 7, and then going on to hustle his blind-black-ass into international superstardom in an era of incredible racism.

Just watch it, I wasn't a "fan" of Ray Charles before, but I am now...


One aspect that was really compelling to me, was his logic with regards to his relationships - with both men and women.

With men it was complicated, as he realized that his talent was greater than his label could promote, than his band could complement, and than his manager could manage. He tried to keep everyone happy, but if he listened to some of his closest and oldest friends it would've held him back for sure. Much like Ben Affleck's character noted to Matt Damon's in "Good Will Hunting", it's better for you to want your friends to live up to their potential and achieve their goals than to hold them down for selfish reasons.

Besides, if they're really your friends, then once they make it big they'll come back for you, and give you as much shine as they can as soon as they can - whether you deserve it or not.


(Aw man, I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the new D12 album!!!)


With women, it was more complicated:

Waaay more complicated.

But that makes sense:

Women are complicated.

Waaay more complicated.

"Men are simple: Feed me, Fuck me, and Shut the Fuck Up!"
- Chris Rock, "Never Scared"


Ray had a wife and was poppin' out kids at home, but while on the road the temptations were fairly tempting...

"Yeah baby..."

"So many fine-wristed women..."

"So little time..."


So, what did he do?


(I know, I know...)

(Maybe my friend was right... maybe he was a total asshole...)

(Then again, maybe not.)


The difference between artist and average Joe's with regards to this is really a matter of honesty:

Artists are more honest.

It comes out in their work, and it also comes out in their confidence with women knowing that...

"A steady-line, will keep forming, 'round the block, you'll see; And if you threw away your ticket, sorry baby, you shoulda fucked meee..."
- Black Krishna, Song: "U Shoulda"

Whereas Joe Average will resort to, or "The World's Oldest Profession" (and still going strong), or pornography, or phone-sex, or their secretary, or Palmela and Handgela...

Ray Charles was straight up:

"My music comes first, THEN my wife, THEN my heroin, and THEN YOU!!! Cool?"


And as his casual affairs with his female back-up singers deteriorated, he often compensated by writing them solo's, which both calmed things down for him and gave her the opportunity to shine before she finally had it with his wandering-- uhh, ear...

He would write something like "Hit The Road Jack", manically bobbing his head at his piano as he could hear the utterly honest bile and anger at which his mistress would belt it out - thus helping make better music.


As an icon, he shared the same philosophy towards relationships as many of the greats: Beethoven, Miles Davis, Elvis Presley, Charlie Parker, Mick Jagger, Bob Marley, Axl Rose, Tupac Shakur, Gene Simmons, Lloyd Banks...


I don't want to hurt anybody, but I want to do what I want.

So, if you want, let's do this...

If you don't, let's not.

Makes sense to me...


(NOTE: If you REALLY feel that strongly about this, then throw out most of your good music.)


The Aviator

Howard Hughes was insane.

But, before that he was almost insane.

And then, he did some really cool shit.


This movie's great, as Leo ("Leo? Leo! Uncle Leo!!!") disappears after about 10 minutes (give or take) into character, and the rest of the movie moves along at a nice pace, with a solid supporting cast supporting Hughes in his inspired insanity.

Or condemning him.

Ahh, the life of an insane visionary... I know it well.

(MENTAL NOTE: Avoid peeing in milk bottles while wandering around naked locked in a room watching war-movie footage. Bad idea. And, forget the naked childhood bathing and sermonizing ritual mommy came up with. Okay, sure, it was a lot of fun, but it'll come back to haunt you.)


Hughes had his own code of ethics and rules that were perfectly ethical and rule-y if you looked at them objectively.

Thanks to him the U.S. has more than one airline, as the idea of a reasonopoly was being pitched by Pan-American Airlines in their attempts to crush TWA - supported by a heavily bribed U.S. Government. He also challenged Hollywood on how to shoot movies, including using 30 cameras to shoot a single scene. (Think: pre-Matrix "Bullet-time".) And after he and Kate Hepburn broke up, when he found out she fell in love with a very married Spencer Tracy and the press had compromising pictures, instead of reacting with classic male jealousy he bought them off the press to have them destroyed.

I guess if you truly love someone you'll let them love who they want to...


That's it for now, I'll see you at the movies...



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