Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Disappointment

Hindsight is a lovely thing. It’s the perfect opportunity for people to glibly say ‘I told you so’. Some books just are not meant to be turned into movies. In hindsight, the Da Vinci Code is one of them. And I have heard so many people who warned me not to go watch it say ‘I told you so’ that I think I should take advice more seriously.

As I’ve said before, I unabashedly loved the book. However, I had no similar expectation that the movie would be brilliant. I knew it would be mediocre at best. Nevertheless, I was going to watch the movie with the enthusiasm of viewing a thriller and although I thought I would re-read the book before hand there was absolutely no time and as it turns out, no need. I must say I was sorely disappointed.

Books turned movies will also always be beset by critics looking for flaws, discrepancies in what they believe should have been told and what was told. I believe that the book form is always more telling, with detail, and it allows the reader to picture the scene and characters in their own minds. This is short-lived luxury when books become movies and some actor takes the place of the ‘man in my mind’. Tom Hanks (whom ordinarily I like very much) was so completely wrong and bland for the part of Robert Langdon. He looked wrong, acted badly and brought nothing to the character. The same can be said of all the other actors. None of them brought joy to the screen – or looked at all happy about being there (and I don't mean giggly just enthusiastic). Each one lacked depth (the monk Silas was alright) and looked tired, almost as if their performance was being forced – poor casting and subsequent poor direction was probably the reason.

Another basic problem was the amount of historical detail that the book goes into. Directing a book into a movie is always going to have its shortfalls – how much detail to keep and what pace to follow? With such a short time to tell such a long story I think they did a great job of breaking up the historical detail into important info bytes. So all the basic information was in – but lots of colourful detail was lost. And putting in lots of theory into the narrative meant that the movie was rather slow – not a thriller in any sense. The interesting bits were about the art and symbolism and this was depicted well.

It was a disappointing movie. The story was clear but did not flow well. The characters were shallow and fleeting. I don’t know if any other director could have done a better job. Big budget does not mean much if the story is so cumbersome and heavy with detail that it needs 6 hours rather than 2 to tell it. The telling of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code would have made a much better 6 part TV drama but I guess there’s not enough box-office money in that.

The movie makeover of the book is drawing full houses and beating box-office records. That’s understandable considering the hype that religious groups are bringing upon it by trying to get it banned. Even those who had no intention of watching it were forced into going out of sheer curiosity. To see what all the fuss was about. Oh what a letdown! Anyone who watches the movie will quickly dispel the myth that it is trying to bring down the church. The movie is not strong enough to bring a wry smile let alone bring down an ancient institution.

I’ve been anti enough. Now I’ll tell you what I liked about it. I liked the way they depicted historical moments – in black and white shaky film. I liked some of the pictography – beautiful settings in the Louvre, the images of which had disappeared since our trip to Paris. And finally, the musical score – which was exquisite, both in content and delivery. It’s definitely a soundtrack worth buying.

I still plan to watch it again – with V once his exam is over this Saturday. Will I notice things I missed last time? Will I love the music even more? Will Tom Hanks seem better or just more out of his depth? Will the story seem more insipid? Will Audrey Tatou be less Angelina Jolie poutie? Will I love the art even more? Will I dislike it more or find some redeeming quality? I suspect I know the answers to all these questions: Yes. Yes. More. Yes. No. Yes. More. We’ll see.
Have you been 'told you so' yet?

Friday, May 19, 2006

coins coins everywhere but none in my wallet

I never get it. Or them. Literally. Cashiers AND change.

In London supermarkets, without exception, I am always handed back my change and stuff in one fist, at one shot and in this order: receipt at the bottom, currency notes above, loyalty card above that and then at least £4.63 worth of coins to top it all. And of course with at least 2 plastic bags in the other hand it’s near impossible to put away the pyramid/ money and change and loyalty card without dropping either said bag(s) or all the coins all over floor. So there I am scrounging on the floor for 5 x 2p and 4 x 20p coins while the guy who has come to the till after me is just looking at me with their deepest frown and thinking “what a moron”. I can’t wait for them to get all their change in a huge pile! Sometimes I think I’ll collect myself – coins in coin compartment all zipped up, notes where they should go, loyalty card in card holder and receipt in bag with groceries – and then turn and look on, waiting for them to drop everything as well. Knowing my darn luck they would have paid by credit card and have just a card and a receipt both of which will deftly slip into wallet with no mishaps. Well, good for them! Harrumph!!

It’s wrong though of me to feel so upset about the guy behind me. Sometimes they just look sympathetic or is that empathetic – as if they know it’s their turn after mine and it’ll soon be them on their knees looking for tiny 5p coins. It’s the supermarkets and their cashiers that this is all about. Why can’t they do this???? Simple handover: Receipt in bag with groceries, notes next and then coin change. I’m sure the current method is something to do with the “optimising-time-while-handing-back-change” module of their training. Well, someone read this and do something (If you work in the retail business or business consult in retail! Apologies everyone, else including poor guy next in line). It is NOT optimising to have customers crawling about on their knees. It is NOT possible to give people huge amounts of change – all in the smallest denomination possible – and then expect them to move off at lightening speed without dropping anything.

I’ve switched to online groceries years ago – once a month for all our staples and packaged food - but every few weeks we need to top up with fresh milk, bread, veggies. So I’m off to get groceries – and I’m paying with my credit card this time.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Da Vinci debacle

Whatever happened to just going to watch a movie for entertainment? I am deeply bothered by the fact that countries around the world are debating banning the Da Vinci Code. Not only is it a violation of the most basic of freedoms – speech. It’s also just a movie, an obvious piece of fiction. Whatever happened to our right to choose what we can or cannot watch and to making up our own minds about what it all means.

I will admit I loved the book (I'm a big fiction fan, and this was a thriller extraordinaire!). The Da Vinci Code. I even like how the title rolls off my tongue. I read it in one night in Madrid, despite being exhausted by sightseeing and knowing that if I got too little sleep I’d be in no shape to do continue on the endless sightseeing the next day. I still slept only at 4am but my mind was still buzzing with the plot of the book next morning. I had no problem sightseeing - all the while rabbiting on at V about how it was one of the most exciting books I had read in a while and how he should waste no time before getting his hands on it.

Proof that EVERYONE was reading it could be seen at airport lounges, train stations, in buses and the tube, peeking out of handbags, in sweaty hands. I needed no further proof of its popularity when we saw the book in the hands of EVERY holidaymaker at the resort in Zanzibar – translations in no less than 12 langauges. We were already done reading it and stuck out like sore thumbs with our ‘Ji-Mantriji/ Pradhanmantriji’ collection!

Veering back to the current day I still can’t believe that Governments are being tasked with deciding if a film is religiously ‘accurate’. I mean, come on, Dan Brown’s book was clearly a piece of fiction and like any novel had a backdrop based in reality, for context if you like. The movie is just an adaptation of the book and is clearly just entertainment fiction, dramatised with a thriller type story. I cannot believe that ANYONE is worried that people will go watch the film and think it’s the truth. If anyone who went to the movies (as opposed to fact based documentaries like the ‘March of the Penguins’) believed that everything they saw was true we have much bigger problems my friends! We’d then have droves of people waiting for King Kong to attack their city centre, Godzilla to climb over their fences and apocalypse to strike at any minute. On the other hand all the droves will probably be hiding at home, feet at the ready toward fully stocked bunkers, with their binoculars and digital cameras at the ready to record any ‘untoward’ incident. So no need to worry that they’ll go watch the movie and yell, “blasphemy!”.

As for Governments, what do they know – and why hasn’t anyone objected to any of the other films that might offend some religion. How do all the other movies get by the various religions? And why should they be checked for religious accuracy anyway? Since when are we too dumb to make logical sensible conclusions from watching movies? This is such a big brother action. Oooh, I do not have a good feeling about this suddenly. If they do decide to ban this film I can see all kinds of problems for the film industry and the future of any kind of movie with a religious angle or undertone to it. If all these religious groups feel that the 'story' is a distortion of their religion, they should just not watch it. They shouldn't bar all the smart people, with great judgement (ie, me and the like) from watching it.

Just to be irritating I’m planning to watch the movie twice: once with friends next Friday and then again with V when he’s done with his CFA exam on the 3rd of June. And I’m sure I will enjoy the thriller bits, Tom and Audrey racing around through Paris and my lovely London. I’m also planning to re-read the book before I go watch the film – just to refresh my memory of all the details and see how closely Ron Howard has recreated the plot. I was disappointed in Tom Hanks being the choice for Langdon and am hoping he will exceed my fairly low expectations of him in this part! For the moview I have high hopes.

I hope all these Governments and all the people lobbying to ban it lose their battle. I hope you can go watch the movie – because it is just that, a movie, a piece of entertainment. Where you can leave your mind at home and sit in a cool air-conditioned cinema hall, eat popcorn, drink cola, forget your worries and revel in a cinematic experience. At the end of the day I hope your right to see a movie is still your right.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lazy thinks up an explanation

Lazy has her own blog. She won't let me tell you what it is though.

She says: Very often lately.

The mind has intentions that are positive. Keeps meaning to write. To blog. The body however is on a journey all its own. Slouched in front of the television with no intention of moving unless it’s a matter of food or sleep. Finally convince the body that the mind is a smidge brighter and knows what its doing. Wrests body from in front of the TV and switches on the laptop (which is not a laptop at all but that’s another story). Fingers to the keyboard. There it is. The frozen mind.

It’s back to the couch to think it all through again while body smugly informs mind “I told you so”.

Till another day.

Poor lazy has blogger block.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Mumbai one

Note: This is the last of my trips down memory lane India holiday in March 2006. I hope you enjoy it.

It was so long ago that I barely remember anything about my 4 short days in Mumbai. Blame it on procrastination (which I like to think of as a person, an opportune friend if you will)

The battle of which is better, Delhi or Mumbai, is something that has long been fought over by populations of each respective city. Each claims the charms of their city as unique and would gladly fight you over your differing opinion if they could. They each (mostly) claim would rather live in their city than anywhere else on the planet.

I’m not willing to get into it though I will admit to having strong feelings on the subject. And enough people have debated it both in the Blogworld and the realworld. I am a Delhi girl. Even after three years of college/ hostel living in faraway Manipal, one year of work experience in Chennai and four years of London living I still consider myself a Dilliwali.

I landed in Mumbai on a Friday evening, glad to be off the Deccan Air flight and missing my parents enormously. I was squashed into my window seat by a 6 foot something giant British cricket fan who had been separated from his fellow travellers by a row (blame free Ryan airstyle seating to match the prices). He spent a large part of the flight yelling across to them (statistics of the match they had just watched, arbit bits about accommodation, the heat and the next match) in the vein “Hey Rob…”, “Hey Justin…”. Each of these conversations also entailed him lifting his arms to wave or gesture. Leaving me to deal with the sweaty armpits and associated odours. The only saving grace was a loud Bengali guy who had the aisle seat, boxing in our cricket-loving friend, and talking to (or is that at?!) him nineteen to the dozen. Bong dude was too cool (I say that in some jest). He had on a T-shirt and cap that proudly displayed ‘Schlumberger’. He carried a knapsack and laptop bag that also proudly bore the same word and logo. He was like an advertisement for the company. So overdone infact that I am tempted to think he bought all that matching kit from somewhere (like ebay – they do sell EVERYthing) just to impress someone. He expounded on the greatness of Eden Garden, Sourav Ganguly and Calcutta in long and convoluted sentences’. Poor Britfan kept trying to cut him off by talking to his friends, pretending to doze off but Bong dudewas having none of it. He was determined to make the Britfan admit that it was terrible that Sourav, Eden and Calcutta had been ignored by the cricket scheduling people. If I remember accurately I think Britfan finally agreed to everything about 5 minutes before landing, beaten into submission by 2 hours of non-stop talking. Told you - my flights are never uninteresting!

Mumbai was humid and overcast, as expected. It’s brightly lit streets guiding humanity home after a long day of work. A doorbell broke the spell and left my brother-sister-&-mom-in-law completely shell shocked at my surprise arrival. R & T and father-in-law had kept the secret well.

Mumbai and I just do not agree. Normally I have a bout of illness when I’m at home (mainly for the mollycoddling efforts of my mum!) but this time although I ate tons of junk from the side of the road I did not fall ill for a second in Delhi. From the morning after my arrival in Mumbai and for the following 3 days I lived in extreme food poisoning hell. I couldn’t really eat out, do much shopping or meet friends – heck I could barely move from the weakness. I wandered into Crossword in Bandra, picked at my m-i-l’s birthday lunch in White Orchid and propped myself up for an afternoon of my best friends yakking. All worth it although I didn’t give any of these events the attention I should have. I am unhappy to report that I even had to go see a doctor who wanted me to go in for re-hydration treatment to hospital. Warded him off knowing that I had a plane to catch and got him to prescribe me with enough antibiotics to keep me standing.

In fact I looked so ill when I checked in (I could barely stand and the heat was not helping) that the check-in guy upgraded me. So I travelled back in comfort. My trip was short and precious. It was lovely to see V’s family although I wished I was in better health to enjoy it more. Next time…..

Coming back to the Mumbai –Delhi debate. I see the charms of Delhi mainly because it’s where I grew up. I also see its problem and faults. I love it just the same. I guess it’s just that for people in Mumbai. Love for the city where they grew up, feel most comfortable. Acceptance of its issues and an attempt to justify and correct them. What I don’t get is why it’s an extreme emotion. With most Mumbaikars I’ve ever met they claim to hate Delhi and the Delhiites seem to feel the same about Mumbai. I don’t particularly care for Mumbai but I certainly don’t hate it. I just can’t imagine ever living there.

My first ever trip there was when I began working in 1996. I was used to the Delhi way of life and I didn’t find Mumbai exciting or alluring. All the wonderful things people had hyped it up with seemed to be a mirage. I hear you say that maybe I was just hanging around with the wrong crowd. Maybe. But even subsequent trips have not changed my view. I have tons of fun in Mumbai but I think that’s more because of V’s family than the city itself. I think my biggest challenge is understanding, accepting and acclimatising to the weather because let’s face it both cities have traffic problems, endless crowds, great places to eat, filled shops, lists of stuff to do etc. I won’t defend my stance. Live with it. The things I must say for the Mumbaikars is that they have indomitable spirits and unwavering belief in themselves. The ‘can do’ attitude and endless pride is something inspirational. I'm still unconvinced about living there though.

I’ll be back in Mumbai on holiday quite soon I’m sure. I hope that by then my attitude is more positive and I find something loveable about the city. Any pointers?

Note: This was not a very focussed blog post. Deal with it.