Sunday, March 11, 2007

Podcast paydirt

It’s amazing how technology has helped us waste so much time with so little effort. A few clicks, some buttons pushed and you are watching some mindless 12 year old with a video camera drone away about how much he loves his poodle or why dolls are great. The funny thing is, we dig it. The phenomenal popularity of Youtube is testament to this fact. The internet has allowed you to broadcast yourself to the world and in acknowledgement of this reality, TIME magazine selected ‘You’ as it’s Person of the year. Another nifty little self-broadcast utility is the podcast. Firmly established in the media underground and fast gaining public popularity, these little babies can be downloaded direct to your ipod or computer through regular RSS feeds. They’re often short and make for excellent filler while you’re waiting at bus stops, in between lectures and during lunch breaks. In my brief foray into podcasting, I came across two series of podcasts that are absolute gems of comic brilliance.

The Ricky Gervais Show

Hosted by the eponymous Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ( of The Office fame ), this British podcast is a surreal foray into the mind of Karl Pilkington, a bloke with a perfectly bald round head and a mind that baffles the imagination. That’s not to say he’s very bright. Quite the opposite, in fact. His total lack of knowledge in many areas and his ridiculous views on various subjects will have you laughing your socks off. This cool, collected and easy go lucky chappie is a rare and fascinating discovery; pure comic gold. Merchant and Gervais provide the perfect foil to Karl’s naiveté. They’re the epitome of sensibility and moderation and they well know how to bait Karl with careful questioning into revealing the most stunning anecdotes and opinions They’re great friends, the lot of them and they really have a bang making the series, which got catapulted into the Guinness book of Records for being the world’s number one podcast. If the notion that the British have no sense of humor was laid to rest by the stupendously funny Brit sitcom Coupling, this podcast series hammers in the final nail to the coffin.

Ask a Ninja

God’s a flippin ninja and he made this podcast so you’ll die laughing. Ask a is hosted by this black-clad ninja who’s death reincarnate. This guy has battled dragons, witches, orcs, the Medusa, Hulk Hogan, Balrogs and even Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell in drunken barroom brawls. He makes Leonidas from 300 and Marv from Sin City look like pansies. You do not want to be messing with him. Seriously, you even so much as look at him the wrong way and you’ll get shuriken lodged in your skull. This shadow of death answers questions from viewers on various and diverse subjects, injecting a deadly mix of killing-related humour and pop culture references to make for one rip-roaring podcast. He’s imaginative, has a way with words and is laugh-out-loud funny. You get immersed in the secret world of the ninjas and start to see how things look from their perspective as the ninja talks about ninternships,minjas, chickinjas, nintechnology and Santa Claus. My words won’t do him no justice; you gotta view this to believe it: it’s absolute ambrosia level comedy. So do yourself a favour and check it out. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna get killed by a ninja. It’s ninjevitable. He’s probably right behind you even as you read this. No, seriously, just look over your shoulder real quick. Do you see the ninja? No? But he sees you…

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Rating: 8.5/10

What can I say? Cinematic brilliance. This is the future of film. CGI rivaled only by The Lord of the Rings. A script to die for. Brilliant direction and a sweet fucken cast. Memorable lines and brilliant images that overwhelm you, stolen panel for panel from the pages of Frank Miller. It reads like a fucken recipe or perfection.

When the trailers came out last year, I knew I was in for a wild ride. Nevertheless, it was with some trepidation that I entered the theatre. Most trailers today just showcase the best bits of the movie; the rest is utter prosaic banality that is unbearably boring. I need not have worried. Every scene from 300 is postcard perfect, every line memorable and epic, every Spartan larger than life. This movie will be the benchmark for sword and sandal epics for aeons to come. First, we had Spartacus and Ben Hur. The 90’s gave us William Wallace and Maximus . 300 ushers in the new era of historical epics with a bang.

The only quibble I have with the movie is it’s slight deviation from the graphic novel. Leonidas’ wife’s perfidy with Theron for his support in the Council is not mentioned in the comic and is inserted in the movie for dramatic effect. As to its historical accuracy, I am uncertain but I take issue with the idea that a Spartan wife would offer carnal pleasure in exchange for favours rendered. Granted, said favour would have resulted in her husband being saved and in the salvation and greater glory of Sparta, but I still find it hard to stomach.

300 fully immerses us into the draconian and harsh world the Spartans lived in, where violence was a byword and discipline, unwavering loyalty, honor and obedience were the cornerstones. A world where no quarter was spared for the weak, no weakness betrayed the strong and might was right. Where children were pushed out into jungles to learn survival and wives expected husbands to either conquer or die. Like Xerxes tells us, the Spartans had one heckuva fascinating culture.

The perfectly filmed fight sequences leave nothing to be desired; they are a perfect joy to behold. The Spartan fighting method is a work of aesthetic beauty, comparable only to the Grammaton cleric John Preston’s fascinating GunKata in Equilibrium. We cheer the Greeks on as horde after horde of Xerxes slave Persians break like water upon stone on Leonidas’ indomitable force of 300.

The visuals are stunning and overwhelming, showing us glimpses of both the beautiful and the grotesque. Xerxes army boasts of quite a few oddities, an executioner with blades for arms, some really screwed up harem girls and a hunchback traitor with a horribly disfigured face. A statutory sex scene is thrown in for good measure. Ultimately, 300’s triumph stems from Frank Miller’s beautiful rendition in his comic series. It’s as if he knew that his graphic novels would be filmed some day and drew each panel for the silver screen. This is one flick that is theatre-worthy and well worth the price of a second entry ticket too.


Rating : 9/10

Of all Woody Allen’s oeuvres, this one for me remains his seminal piece. The Oscar winning Annie Hall is preferred by many; Allen’s biting satire, acerbic wit and resplendently witty humour is all too evident in that film. However, the black and white treatment of Manhattan clinches it for me; I fell in love with it watching it alone on a slow Friday evening. And alone is how all of Woody Allen’s movies should be watched. The slices of life they portray, the frank evocations of reality they show and the emotions they elicit in the viewer are best enjoyed in solitude.

Manhattan stars Woody Allen as Isaac Davis, an out-of-work comedy writer who’s just coming out of a nasty divorce. It is of interest to note that in all his movies, Allen seems to be playing himself. He is often depicted as a Neurotic Jewish person mostly having a career in film or television. Anyway, back to the plot. Isaac’s ex-wife( played by a stunningly beautiful Meryl Streep) is writing a stunning revelatory memoir of their marriage and the break-up which will make Allen look like a neurotic fruitcake given his idiosyncratic tendencies. Allen is dating a sweet high school kid, but refuses to take her seriously. Into this mélange of complex relationships enters Mary Wiley (Diane Keaton), Issac’s best friend’s mistress whom Ike seeks solace in. The story is set in the eponymous Manhattan; the beauty of the city is captured in various scenes. The black and white treatment really accentuates the business of the bustling streets, the lonely park benches late at night the beautiful bridges and the bright street lights. You feel the thrum of New York behind you, the fragility of its people, the harsh uncaring relentlessness with which it bears down on its denizens. And as in most of Allen’s movies, there are no happy endings to be had. Life is not a cakewalk, it’s a flippin tiger waiting to pounce just when you’ve become comfortable. Hope is all Allen leaves us with; a glimmering sneak peek at what could be, if…

I am yet a newcomer to the world of Allen’s vast movie collection. But from what I’ve seen, this quirky bloke is funny as fuck and has a directing sense unique in my experience of Hollywood. I’m certain that I’ll be going through the entire Allen repertoire before I die, so help me God...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Those who can't do critique

I don't personally know of any single individual who consumes more media than I do. I am sure there are thousands who spend their every waking hour devouring movies, film, theatre and opera. It is a sad testament to the nature of the company I keep that the true media afficionadas in my group can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and none of them are hardcore fans. Which is to say, they have a life independent of this shit. Sadly, my life has begun to revolve around alternate realities. I have immersed myself in the vicarious pleasures of consuming movies, television and novels ; have sacrificed countless hours to the pantheon of underground media. I have written for the Lifestyle section of my college magazine, critiquing obscure underground art movements,films and books. I've also taken modules in art appreciation and recognition. Thus I feel adequately qualified to critique works of art I encounter. Given that my opinions on movies and novels are often very firm and strong, it is to be expected that many will find my reviews opinionated and pompous. But then it's not my job to keep you happy. I am well aware that a critic is just a glorified reviewer who is able to adequately express his hatred/love of a piece of art.Also, the response I've encountered most often while lambasting a work of art is,
"If you're so good, why don't you make something yourself?" To this, my response is that you don't have to be capable of making art to judge art. There is an intrinsic aesthetic sensibility in us that helps us tell good art from bad art.

Most times, people find that reviews don't count for diddly squat. I'm hoping mine do.Here goes.