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An Outsider’s Perspective From The Inside

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Archive for June, 2008

Choosing a DVD Rental Service: Seventymm

Posted by anandrr on June 30, 2008

Seventymm has less than BigFlix, it’s missing all the same ones as BigFlix, and is also missing Infernal Affairs. Also they don’t redeem themselves by stocking Blood Simple. 5/10, very poor!

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Posted in Films, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Choosing a DVD Rental Service: Bigflix

Posted by anandrr on June 30, 2008

Bigflix stocks 6 out of our gold standard list of 10 DVDs. 6 isn’t bad. Not good, but not too shabby for a new Indian service. They don’t stock Fargo, but they do have Blood Simple, go figure. They also don’t have Rashomon, Jesus Camp or Enthusiasm.

Posted in Films, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Choosing a DVD Rental Service

Posted by anandrr on June 30, 2008

Any DVD rental service worth its salt should stock the following DVDs:

  1. An Inconvenient Truth
  2. Infernal Affairs
  3. Rashomon
  4. Pather Panchali
  5. High Noon
  6. Fargo
  7. Reservoir Dogs
  8. Jesus Camp
  9. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  10. The Motorcycle Diaries

Most of these are the best in their respective genre. A couple are in there just because I haven’t watched them yet. The great thing about Netflix was that it stocked all of these as well as all your standards, both Hollywood as well as Bollywood. How do the Indian rental services compete?

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Film Review: Dasavatharam

Posted by anandrr on June 30, 2008

Kamal Hassan is a great actor and undoubtedly an intelligent man. He has acted in a wide variety of roles, almost always doing a good job, and he has written directed and produced a number of good movies. But apparently once you start dressing yourself up in layers of makeup and acting in multiple roles in a movie, you can’t go back. So having graduated from double roles to triple roles to quadruple roles, he seems to have convinced himself that the best possible movie would be one where he plays ten different roles. One would imagine that in addition to the obvious novelty, the movie might have something more to offer: technical wizardry perhaps, grand new advances in facial makeup, innovative story telling techniques, perhaps different strands coming together to reveal the plot, or even just experiments with  chronological progress. If you go in expecting any of these, expect to be sorely disappointed. If, on the other hand, watching Kamal don a number of Halloween style masks and prance around telling a story with no redeeming value is your idea of fun, hie on to the theatres and fork over a wad of your well earned money for this travesty of film making.

The very first impression of this film is its poor technical skills. It starts with an overuse of poor computer-generated imagery and then refuses to let go. When you’re making a movie in India, filling a stadium with extras and filming them watch a President speak while US and Indian flags flutter overhead can’t be the most expensive thing in the movie, especially if you’re making the most expensive Indian movie ever. But watch in horror as you gaze upon a series of 2 dimensional cutouts standing in for real people, a fake flag fluttering in the wind, a fake temple gopuram, fake boats in a fake river making fake ripples as they float by, all of it culminating with a fake shark in a fake ocean. Of course, it didn’t have to be this way. But Kamal had apparently decided that the only thing that peoplw would want to watch in this movie would be he, he, he, he, he, he, he, he, he and he, so really why not just cheaply generate and animate the rest of it? There is a Kamal who is inserted in the movie by a computer, the ultra-tall Kamal. Needless to say, this Kamal looks fake also, he seems to shimmer on surfaces instead of standing on them, he seems to be in his surroundings at times, and mostly just stuck in there. There is one good touch when tall Kamal casually ducks to avoid banging his head against a short door, but when you’ve said that you’ve said everything for the quality of special effects on display here. And then there’s the butterfly. Oh God, the butterfly. A butterfly flits across the screen. The narrator talks about the butterfly effect. It’s, what, 15 years since Forrest Gump made a beautiful feather flit across the screen and no one the wiser that it was fake? And we still can’t get a realistic bloody butterfly to flit hither and thither and not look like it was painted on by a second rate artist?

I am no Tamil genius, but in my limited understanding, there were but two flashes of brilliance of dialogue in the entire film. Once when President Bush dismisses his aide saying, “if it’s complicated, I don’t want to know,” and another when the main character says, “So you really think God created those tectonic plates millions of years ago so that we could have an earthquake here right at this moment? That’s some Intelligent Design.” It’s a great put down, even in the context of the discussion at that point, but here in India we don’t quibble much about the truth behind evolution, so it’s mostly a miss. The rest of the dialogue is mostly misses, the most glaring one being when the villain, a human T-1000 if ever there was one, meets his nemesis in a Japanese martial arts teacher (both Kamal, natch). “Remember Hiroshima,” T-1000 sneers at Kamal-san, “Remember Pearl Harbour,” Kamal-san growls back. And thus we are now ready to watch them beat the stuffing out of each other to avenge 50 year old war crimes.

Later this year Tata will be selling us a car for less than the price of a Segway, so I find it hard to imagine that Segway wanted its product placed so prominently. Yet there is Kamal and colleague going from meeting room to meeting room on a Segway, there he is Segwaying alongside his boss while another chap Segways on behind them, and there he is Segwaying inside a lab as he eavesdrops on the baddies. For a guy who is going to spend the rest of the movie on the run, he seems to have remarkably little experience moving on his own energy, standing still seems to be his most natural state of being.

And then there’s the Captain Obvious affliction. You see, Kamal is a smart man, but the rest of us would never be able to figure out even the simplest things unless we had our faces rubbed in it. So Captain Obvious leaves nothing to subtlety. Oh no, an audience should never have to discuss a movie after they leave the theater, it should all be perfectly laid out in front of them, besides an editor costs money. There’s Kamal fighting for his God just like old Kamal did in the 12th century, there’s the elephant outside the temple just like in the 12th century, wait, there he is fighting people with electric torches just like he fought the baddies with flaming torches to start this all off, and on and on and on, culminating with a shot of this supposedly gigantic idol (except it looks tiny thanks to inconsistent graphics), because we can’t otherwise realise that this gigantic rock thrown up by the ocean with bits of chain stuck to it must be the same idol we saw at the start of the movie with a chain around it unless that fact is made excruciatingly obvious.

Every now and then you see a hat tip to a good movie, a Terminator pose struck here, a shot from inside the trunk of a car there, to show us that the director likes watching good movies, he just doesn’t enjoy making them.

Posted in Culture, Films, Funny, Reviews, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

We’re Here, We’re Sexuality Minority…

Posted by anandrr on June 30, 2008

You live for many years in a city that has a large gay pride parade every June and the local media takes great pride in it. Then you come home and the local media are such prudes that they coyly refer to the “Sexuality Minority Parade.”

Posted in Culture, Funny, Media, Sexuality | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Corruption is Endemic in India

Posted by anandrr on June 29, 2008

Professional economists tell us what we all already knew: Corruption is everywhere. As we’ve observed before, Indian governments are caught in a cleft stick here. The only way to solve this problem is to pay your government bureaucrats more, but we’re too poor and run too large a deficit to try either of these (paying bureaucrats more money will not win you an election, forgiving billions of rupees in farmer’s loans might). The only way out would appear to be have an independent agency do a good job of holding corrupt officials accountable. But even that is only a partial solution. If being a babu became less rewarding, people would just stop entering public service.

I am reminded here of the times we ourselves obtained our car-driving license. We have now done this three times. The first time was at the Bangalore RTO. That was a simpler time, to be sure. Much less corruption, indeed we ourselves had got our motorcycle drivers’ license at the very same RTO in the straightforward drive-the-motorcycle-around-the-block and the demonstrate-your-knowledge-of-hand-signs manner. When the time came for the car license, we had first gone to a driving school to learn. Said driving school then lined up 4 or 5 of us with a school-supplied-car (we took our dad’s) to drive around the block. Since there were about 5 of us, we got an opportunity to watch every one drive, some could barely get the car to move, some stalled on turns, yet others had no idea what the hand signals were. We ourselves had amply supplemented our driving school lessons with driving our dad’s car all around town so we had little trouble demonstrating our perfect driving skills. Needless to say, we failed the test. Others who clearly had no idea how to drive, passed. This was the very first time we had failed a test in our life, so we were completely heart broken. Perhaps it was the complete arbitrariness that broke our spirits, or perhaps it was our very first experience with corruption. Our father of course encouraged us with word and gesture to go take the test again with a positive attitude. Thankfully, we passed the next time around, and all was well with the world. One shudders to think what might have happened had we failed again.

The second time we had to get a driver’s license was when we went to the US. This time we were at school in Utah and the first break we got, my room mate and I decided to rent a car, go to the DMV, get our licenses, and then drive on down to Las Vegas for our first American-style vacation on the road. The Utah license seemed like fun. After we paid our fees, the good lady told us to go take the written test. As we headed test-wards, she asked if we didn’t want the DMV book to refer to as we took the test. An open book test! We had just spent the previous evening reading up on American signs, and which way to point the wheel when parked on a downhill, and here apparently all we needed to do was know how to read the Table of Contents. Of course, we took the books, aced the tests and then proceeded to take the driving  test. Turned out that the driving test was conducted not on the streets, but in a test driving range, complete with demarcated parallel parking spots and train crossings with flashing reds, and a complete absence of real traffic. We did the entire test well, parallel parked with ease, came to a complete stop at the stop signs, turned left into the left most lane, perfect in every way. And then we returned to the office and I was told I had failed. “You didn’t look over your shoulder before changing lanes,” the DMV officer told me rather mournfully. She was just as disappointed in the result as I was, I had done everything just right apparently, but not looking over one’s shoulder was a failing offence, nothing to be done about it. I protested that when there was absolutely no traffic anywhere around me for miles, nothing in my rearview mirrors, nothing ahead of me, it was a little much to expect me to pretend there was traffic and look over my shoulder. I mean there is a blind spot and all, but dammit, I’m not  that blind. But to no avail. She took my point however and said that since all I did wrong was that one thing, instead of having to wait the usual week or two before being allowed to take the test again, I could return the next day and retake the test, just remember to look over your shoulder this time. We returned the next day, retook the test, pointedly looked over our shoulder (to his credit, the DMV officer gave us a few chances to change lanes so we had ample opportunity to demonstrate our look-over-the-shoulder-skills). This gave us our license so we could now drive on down to Las Vegas and party like real Americans. Also, we had a non-passport id that we could show at the door of an establishment requiring age-check so there was that.

The third opportunity to interact with license-granting authorities came in California. Having postponed getting our license as long as possible (a few years beyond the legal 2 weeks), we were finally forced to visit the DMV when our Utah license expired. No driving test this time, just the written. No open book test this time either. The California test had a few trick questions requiring more than one’s common sense but also real knowledge of the law. We barely made it through, we got 3 wrong, we think 5 wrong disqualifies one. But the DMV officer was impressed! She beamed at me as if I were the smartest person to walk into the DMV that day, just 3 wrong! Personally, we were just glad we were going to get out of the DMV with our license in one try, but we weren’t about to argue with the soft bigotry of low expectations. Of course, this being California, we didn’t actually leave with our license, in fact we had to return to the DMV a couple more times before we got the damn license, but that’s California bureaucracy for you.

Now that we’re back in India, we might have to return to the RTO some time. We’d like to get all our names in various official documents to all read the exact same so we are never harassed by random officals just looking to give us a hard time. But we’re not sure we’ll leave the RTO with our wallets intact, so we’re postponing this as long as we can.

Posted in Cars, Corruption, Culture, Funny, Incentives, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Arrested Development

Posted by anandrr on June 27, 2008

They’re making a movie of Arrested Development. That is all.

Posted in Culture, Films, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Novel Way to Recruit

Posted by anandrr on June 26, 2008

Chez Blandings Media Empire received a telemarketing call from Tata AIG insurance yesterday. Only they weren’t looking to sell us insurance. They were looking for graduates that they could hire to be “Analysts.” My dad was happy to offer his services to them. And they assured him that they didn’t care how old the applicant was so long as he or she had a degree.

Posted in Advertising, Business, Funny, Recruiting, Telemarketing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ahmadinejad v Bush

Posted by anandrr on June 25, 2008

We rarely do American politics here at Just Landed, we like to think we’ve left that behind for good. But this was too good not to write up. Listening to the Fresh Air podcast the other day, I heard this interview with Iranian(?) writer Kasra Naji. Naji’s complaints about Ahmadinejad basically seemed to be:

  • He’s too right wing and is in the pocket of the local religious clergy
  • He and his folks were elected in a democratic election but since then have been anything but democratic in their methods.
  • He believes in crazy religious talk like the belief that the 12th Sufi saint (who went “missing”) will return in our own lifetimes (along with the return of Jesus apparently) and preside over an Islamic utopia.
  • He believes that the 12th Sufi saint speaks through him.
  • He is but a traffic planning engineer, how could he possibly understand weighty themes such as Western liberal thought and the Enlightenment

At the Blandings Media Empire, we are not Ahmadinejad apologists, but we have lived in the US for the last 11 years. But replace the bit about the Sufi saint with  Jesus, and the phrase “traffic planning engineer” with “failed oilman and lucky businessman” and what do we have?

This reminded us of a talk radio show on one of the local right wing AM stations that we heard one day in the States. This was about two years ago when a war with Iran seemed all but certain. and Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia and this was the prevailing outrage of the week. Said talk radio host was putting down Iran and Ahmadinejad, and suggested that his election was basically a fraud, because in Iran we were told, the religious clergy decided who “their candidate” was going to be and that person had gone on to win, which would never happen in a real democracy.

Posted in Advertising, Funny, Politics, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

“I work at WalMart”

Posted by anandrr on June 22, 2008

In India  the statement, “I work at WalMart,”  is a matter of pride. Not because Indians really enjoy working for less than minimum wage greeting people walking into an over-lit, crowded, football-field sized room full of cheap consumer goods. The WalMart people speak of in India is their technology/IT center here in Bangalore. The enormous scale of their technology is one of the things that makes Walmart so competitive in the States. So it’s like working for Google, I suppose.

Posted in Advertising, BPO, Business, Capitalism, Culture, Economics, Funny | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »