Monday, July 20, 2015

Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Sometimes we do get the Hero we need.


As the parade of trailers before Bajrangi Bhaijaan amply demonstrated Bollywood is no longer making films for Heroes, honest-to-goodness capital “H” heroes. There are only a handful left in Bombay and not one under 40 with the strength to challenge the 3 Khans. I’ve written about this many times before but, to my mind, what separates a real Hero from just an actor is us, the audience. A Hero’s career is a dialogue with the audience. Sometimes a Hero makes a film for us, sometimes he makes a film for himself, and sometimes he makes a film as a favor for a buddy. The point, whether or not a Hero intends to convey anything at all with his film choices, we, the audience, are going to see a linear progression. We see films sequentially, as they are released, one frame following the next.

Although the past is never past these days, with old mistakes lingering online like Raj & DK’s globalized zombies, nobody can deny that Salman Khan has spent much of the last few years trying to put something good into the world. No matter what the “critical consensus” was on the quality of a film like Veer, it was clearly made with a lot of love and joy. The same with a film like Ready or Bodyguard, films intended to delight audiences, to provide a little hit of pleasure. Not everybody likes everything Salman has made over the course of his career but most of us can find at least one film to enjoy in his recent filmography. Because Salman is just that kind of Hero. He may not be the greatest actor who ever lived but he’s a superb Hero and his on-screen image is subtle, supple, and flexible enough to handle almost any type of persona, infusing each character, no matter how cheeky they’re written, with a sense of real goodness.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Baahubali: The Beginning... Hey, wait, that means... God damn it I have to wait another YEAR for the end?!

“Special Effects Blockbuster” are three words Hollywood has trained me to avoid. They signal the hollow spectacle of dreck like JJ Abrams new Star Trek films, which ditched the moral and human aspects of the original series and replaced them with lens flares glinting of CGI space ships, and Michael Bay’s Transformers series, films so dull the only thing preventing me from falling asleep while giant robots battled it out on screen at the theater was the rowdy group of middle schoolers sitting in front of me--and whose antics were more entertaining than the giant mess of CGI on screen by miles. “Special Effects Blockbuster” usually means a film in special effects are not a means to an end, but the end in themselves.

Baahulbali is being touted as the biggest Indian special effects blockbuster to ever grace the screen. A marketing line like this is red meat for the box office obsessed, blockbuster-watchers of the 24-hour, English language global news cycle. And soon enough we find Internet Critics are bickering over whether or not the CGI are As Good As Hollywood™, generating rupee for rupee comparisons with Red Chilies output like Ra.1 (Shahrukh Cannot Be Defeated™), and attempting to find the special effects clip, like the one from Magadheera, most likely to catch the attention of Reddit and go viral. Meanwhile, any discussion of the real pleasure in a film like Baahubali gets lost in the shuffle.

But Baahubali is not a “Special Effects Blockbuster.”

What SS Rajamouli gave us is a “Fucking Epic Blockbuster.”


Monday, July 6, 2015

Iceland 2015! All Tomorrow's Parties!

Good morning, friends! Is it morning still? I am back from Iceland and only a teeny bit jet lagged.

The only film song I could find filmed in Iceland is "Heartalliro" from the Kannada film Brindavana:

But you can see how striking the scenery is. Come on, producers! Go film a love song in June to take advantage of the fields of purple Lupine…


(The Lupine)

Plus Iceland is just awesome!


(Eating a waffle from a waffle truck in Reykjavik in my cool A.B.C-Z concert t-shirt!)

I really, really enjoyed my time there. I traveled with my sister and we spent three days in the capital of Reykjavik and then 3 days at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival out by Keflavik at the old NATO base.

A few things I noticed:

1. Iceland is COLD. I was completely underprepared and had to buy a sweatshirt my first day. I wore it EVERYDAY. I was expecting cool weather but I didn't really understand how cold it is up by the Arctic circle. Even in summer.

2. Iceland loves coffee. And the coffee is strong and very good. My sister and I really enjoyed the coffee at this one place where you get it in a giant french press. We also has so much delicious yogurt and cheese. And fish. Just delicious foods everywhere!

3. Iceland loves sarcasm. I haven't laughed as hard at anything in a long time as I did at all the Icelandic humor. At times I felt like I was living in Mad Magazine's "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions." No matter what I asked, I'd get some sort of snappy answer in response.

4. Iceland is the one place where I can blend in as a local. Seriously, people. In Iceland I was of average height, average weight, average skin and hair color. And my glasses and clothes fit right in. People would start speaking Icelandic to me before they realized I wasn't. I just need one of those nice sweaters everybody was wearing!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's the theater, darling!

Yesterday I happened across a couple of interesting essays on the state of American acting. This one from the Atlantic titled, "The Decline of the American Actor" and this one from the New Yorker, in response to the first, titled, "Free Yourself from the Cult of Marlon Brando."

I agree and disagree with parts of both but I thought discussion of what makes "good" acting was relevant especially with the Hollywood-turn Bollywood has been taking the last few years. Personally, as a viewer, I couldn't give less of a fuck about "good" acting. What matters to me to an actor's ability to connect with the audience, to connect with me. If an actor can convey the emotions necessary for the scene, then that's "good" acting as far as I'm concerned. The rest is all inside baseball (inside cricket?) nobody other than critics and/or industry watchers cares about.

BUT I did think it was interesting to hear the talk about training. I do really enjoy the theatrical, showy style of acting and, coincidence or not, most of my favorite character actors in any industry turn out to be theater actors. The theater just works for me. I just enjoy theater-trained (British) actors more than the "method"-style (American) ones. Relevant to Bollywood, I've also found that DANCERS and/or martial artists who become actors have a style that works for me, rooted in getting the physicality right to the part. Which is why I'll always value something like Varun's performance in that one song I linked to a couple days back in ABCD 2 over the more American-style Imran or Abhishek acting. One connects with me, the other doesn't.

Brody has a great line in his piece on why British actors are generally cast in American period pieces:

"[F]ew can summon the granitic opacity of people from half a century ago or far earlier, yet British actors can imitate it."

Which gets to why British actors are generally the ones cast as aliens/monsters on American sci-fi shows. You don't have to summon any alienness from within yourself, you just have to be able to act the part.

Lately I've been working my way through the SyFy Network series Defiance. It's in the third season right now but I've been catching up with seasons one and two on Amazon Prime. The first season starts off a little shaky but the series finds its feet soon enough. There are aliens and weird mystical things and political drama (as well as excellent use of women characters and non-white people in the main cast) but what really caught my interest was the story of the Tarr family. The Tarrs are aliens who immigrated to Earth and have spent the last two seasons attempting to navigate the cultural divide. It's a fascinating portrait of a family having to figure out how to bridge the gap between the old world and easy-breezy Western culture. The link here is that the parents are both played by Brits--Tony Curran and Jaime Murray--while the son is played by Jesse Rath, the Canadian son of immigrant parents himself. Seeing Jesse's very contemporary, very Western, very free mannerisms opposite the formalness of the actors playing his parents has just been so compelling. The conflicts, the negotiations of, "Well, yeah, but HERE they do things this way!" and his choice of occupation: Record Producer. Ha! (Where's my Tarr Traxx T-shirt, yo?!)

Anyways, I've really been enjoying the show.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Masss: Was it a Mass?!

Running for their lives towards the beginning of Massu Engira Masilamani aka Masss, our orphan hero Massu (Suriya) and his buddy Jet Li (Premgi Amaren) run right into a temple. In this temple is a holy man who tells them--and I’m paraphrasing from the subtitles here--“A rock outside is just a rock but if you see in the temple then it becomes a God. The mind is what gives meaning.” It’s an odd little moment of quiet shoehorned into a very loud, very busy film and the message stuck with me after the film was over, as I tried to piece together what it was, exactly, that I’d just seen. Masss is a lot of things all at once, what you see depends on where your brain places the meaning.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jyothi Lakshmi… A Charmme Production.

I said the other day that I've been thinking a lot about Heroes recently but watching this trailer for Jyothi Lakshmi reminds me of the old debate about "female Heroes" in films. What's the difference between an "author-backed role" for a heroine, a "woman-centric film", and a "female hero"? I feel like we have strong heroines, who may even be the protagonist, like Katrina Kaif in Bang Bang, but they are still heroines. "Women-centric film" is usually the tag put on those dull, Miramax-ish movies where the lead role goes to an actress either looking to break out of heroine-ing or an actress past her heroine-ing prime but who still attracts media interest. (YAWN!)

A female hero is something different. It's something in the way the camera films her. The way she faces the audience. We can desire her, as we desire male heroes, but we also want to be her. Male heroes aren't all powerful nor are they always in control. And they can be fetishized by the camera as much as any item girl can be but there is something in the way a hero is portrayed… a magnetism. To see a woman in the same light. I think that's what Puri Jagannadh manages to capture with Charmme in this trailer. You can't take your eyes off her.

At least I couldn't.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Do I deserve this much Beefcake?! DO I?!

Friends!!! Good morning! Can I just say that I think I was spoiled by Japan? I have a ticket to Belle & Sebastian tonight but I didn't quite realize until right now that the venue is SO FAR from public transportation that it would be extremely difficult to get to without driving but if I drive then parking is like $30!!!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! On top of that, I forgot that unlike in Japan, concerts here start really late. So, instead of a nice evening out, having a beer or two, seeing one of my favorite bands, and getting home at a reasonable time (11pm ish) in order to get to work in the morning, I'd be paying at least $30 for parking but then not having even a beer OR paying even more and getting a taxi AND the show probably wouldn't even start until 10-10:30pm… UGH! And the venue itself seriously sucks, according to Yelp. Seriously, America, get it together. I think I might just sit this one out.

I'll be seeing Belle & Sebastian at the end of the month anyways at All Tomorrow's Parties in Iceland so yeah. Basically, FUCK YOU, ECHOSTAGE and fuck you, lack of public transportation options in the United States!

ANYWAYS! Enough ranting! Life is good, friends! My health is really, really improving and I'm almost over my jet lag. So now the question is… DO I EVEN DESERVE TO BE ON THIS PLATFORM?

I can't say but I definitely deserve to watch this movie. I'll do it. I'll put my trust in Karan "from the director of Agneepath" Malhotra. The only thing I was worried about was songs (i.e. would there be songs?!) but then I saw Bebo is doing an item so no worries!

And if that's not enough beefcake for a Thursday morning…

DAMN VARUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The more I see from Varun, the more I like him. I definitely thing ABCD 2 is one to look out for if it features songs like this. What I like about what I've seen from Varun so far is that despite the fact that he's a star kid, he seems to really be putting in the effort to make what could be throwaway roles into something compelling. I mean, Main Tera Hero is an utterly mediocre film but Varun makes his scenes pop. And now ABCD 2 promos… kid has presence, determination, and talent. I got to respect that.

Now to catch up with Badlapur… I wonder if it's on streaming yet.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl