Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

Statistics prove that the movie watching populace today is clearly divided into two parts. Those who know the difference between petrify and stupefy (may their numbers grow), and those who think these are no more than two words from Webster’s Dictionary. And the latter is an aging race that diminishes in number every time someone turns a page.

For the 11 of you who read this blog, and the 61 of you who haven’t read a single book of Harry Potter (and who, almost certainly, don’t read this blog), the seventh installment of this top-grossing movie franchise might be the safest place to begin the journey. Only because, Deathly Hallows part 1 is completely devoid of anything out of a textbook on magical creatures. Well, almost. Also, there are absolutely no boring potion classes to attend. No new spells to learn. No pretty seniors to ‘charm’. No accidents on the Quidditch field. No points to be won for Griffindor house. No Hogwarts rules to be broken. For Potterheads, it’s almost tantamount to being expelled during the Happy Hours at the Three Broomsticks. This is undoubtedly the most non-magical movie about the wizarding world.

Simply put, it’s a story of three young wizards, Harry, Ron and Hermione, who are absconding from the wizarding world in search of something called hocruxes. That it happens to be a bone of contention for Lord Voldemort (very much like Darth Vader from our times) is inferred when his minions called ‘Death Eaters’ (the dark forces) wreck havoc while chasing the three friends. And just as you figure out what the title actually alludes to, you realise that you’ve just watched the longest movie trailer ever, clocking at 150 minutes. Confused? Surely. The movie really wasn't made for you anyway.

But then, as your young friends will tell you, you need a lot more than just a wand or some spell to create some magic. And this movie is visual proof of what Dumbledore meant when he said something in the tune of ‘Love and friendship can encompass everything. Even that which your wand can’t’. (Well, something of the sort. Only read the books once, you know. But you get the drift, don't you?)

While DH part 1 may seem very distant from the magical realms of Hogwarts, it is the one movie that is most loyal to its protagonists. For once, we know more about Harry, Ron and Hermione without ever getting distracted by their academic or trivial pursuits. Here are three friends, who have been driven out of their cocoon of adult supervision, and are racing against time to survive several onslaughts from the dark forces of Lord Voldemort. And the only thing working for them, when even their own wands fail, is each other’s company. But then, it is under such immense pressure that the strongest bonds are forged. Here's where the world of wizards comes closest to reality.

The utter frustration of the characters under overwhelming odds considerably slows down the pace of the movie. At times, you feel as impatient as the characters themselves. At times, you feel a sense of nostalgia, thinking of the good old days at Hogwarts. At times, you are left wondering if it’s a children’s movie any more. The harsh reality dawns upon the characters and the audience alike, that childhood was a thing of the past. And life will only continue to be unfair. So much so that a few lighter moments that emerge out of long dark hours seem no more than a fleeting respite. A Waltz between Harry and Hermione when they are on the verge of giving up is one such poignant moment.

There are two other sequences that will remain etched in the memory for some time. Firstly, there’s Hermione who reluctantly erases herself from her parents’ life, thus keeping them out of harm’s way. And then there is an animated narrative of the legend of the Deathly Hallows. These were the best sequences in this movie.

However, for all its brilliance, DH part 1 does offer an unbiased critic a lot of scope for nitpicking. The effect of wearing a hocrux surely reminds you of Frodo Baggins. Lord Voldemort certainly doesn’t seem half as scary as he’s made out to be. And then, as is the case with most movies that are based on books, DH part 1 proves to be the proverbial mini-skirt, concealing a whole lot more than what it reveals. But among book-based movies, I’d rank DH part 1 alongside Godfather 2, in that it lays greater emphasis on the characters of the story, as opposed to the main plot. That was one aspect of the movie I found most fascinating.

Of course, we do realise that a critique for any movie from this franchise is a futile exercise. If you do watch this in a theatre, just pay attention to the disappointment of the 10-year old who is a complete authority on all magical creatures Harry has encountered so far, or the ecstatic 12-year old who has all the magical spells by heart, and is completely armed to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts, come July 2011. That to me is the best critical analysis Deathly Hallows part one can get.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thank you for the music.

Music expresses that which can not be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Nobody described music better than Victor Hugo. And since I cannot write anything as profound to describe any of the albums below, I'll keep it down to one sentence each. The rules of this Facebook Tag are 15 minutes (no more) to name your 15 favourite albums. Here goes:

The Beatles – Abbey Road

Their last album, which begins with Come Together. How apt.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Cannot listen to just one track from this album and leave the rest.

Led Zeppelin IV

Clearly helped the band to be a rock, and not roll.

Pearl Jam – Ten

Have had the discography on me for half a decade, but I've never gone beyond their first album

Prodigy – Fat of the Land

90s, during my teen years, I had to love a band that came up with Smack my bitch up, even though I didn’t know what that really meant.

Kasabian – Kasabian

In an age when MTV plays anything but music, this album is the most definitive IV shot in music’s arm.

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

The first time I heard it in ‘07, I took the plunge, and I’m still immersed in it.

Bob Dylan 30th anniversary concert

When Tracy Chapman pays tribute to Dylan’s village folk days, and Johnny Cash and June Carter relate his Country leanings, while Clapton covers his experiments with Blues, you Don’t Think Twice.

AC/DC - Back in Black

When one of the loudest albums of all time features a number called Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, you have to admire this 'metal' band and their attempt at irony.

Metallica – Black

Many critics have blasted this album saying it was meant for losers. Boy, am I glad I was one.

U2 – Joshua Tree

If there’s one album that defines what really drove the band, it’s this one. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

RATM – Battle of Los Angeles

When you want to flash your digitus impudicus to the world, this is the album you play.

Nirvana – Never Mind

Funnily, my introduction to rock music was Come as you are. And here I am.

Simon & Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me. Need I say more?

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

When you're down and out, When you're on the street, When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you
This album still has that kind of an effect on me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

15 literary influences in 15 minutes

No seriously. 15 minutes. Another minute of deliberations, and the list would have changed. So here goes:

1. Merchant of Venice - It took me 3 reads to start appreciating this one. And another 3 to be able to say 'To bait fish withal: if it feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge.... The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction' from memory. And 3 more before my ICSE boards. But if it was not for this one, I may never have been able to appreciate the rest of this list. So numero uno it is, Mr. Bill.

2. Dennis the Menace - 'You can fool some people all the time, and all the people sometime. But you can never fool mom'. Life lessons learnt from pencil boxes, posters and newspaper cuttings. Damn, where did all that go?

3. Asterix - History books were never the same after reading this series.

4. Short stories by O' Henry - Wit. Wordplay. Warmth. And clever twists in the end. Damn, he'd be one hell of a copywriter.

5. Short Stories by Somerset Maugham - This man can inspire you to write. Period.

6. Short Stories by Saki - He taught the rules of English by day. And tried to rewrite those very rules at night. Uber cool!

7. Calvin & Hobbes - “We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.” Yes, it took a 6-year old to teach me that one. What a philosopher, I say.

8. Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger - Everytime I fuck up, I think of Holden Caulfield. And then I realise that things could have been worse.

9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Forget James Bond. If there really is a personification of 'GQ man', than that honour should go to one Mr. Atticus Finch.

10. Fountainhead by Ayn Rand - It's an absolute must-read if you are in college and trying to hit on women with literary leanings. Quoting it always follows countless hours of conversations over coffee. ;)
PS: Whether you agree with the woman (the one you are hitting on, not Ayn Rand) or not, you better have an opinion of your own before attempting a pseudo-intellectual heist. Cheers!

11. The Trial by Franz Kafka - An awesome satire on the judicial system. Really makes you feel impotent. Not for the weak of heart and mind.

12. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre - If you are the kinds who has bottled up anger for many years, than take a deep breath, try and channelise it into wicked bursts of sarcasm and other unprintable variants. And hell, win the GODDAMN BOOKER as a consolation for anger management!

13. Animal Farm by George Orwell - This one inspired me to write a street play. And I must say, it was a one-hit wonder. At least as far as lit events at colleges in the proximity of South Canara go. :P

14. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, and Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin - It took the first book to inspire me to make a holiday list, and the second one to believe it was possible. I'd give myself 80 years for this adventure, though.

15. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol - One Reverand Dodgeson starts taking a trip of one bored 10-year old Alice Liddle, on a boatride. And the rest, they say, is hysterical. This book drove the literary world crazy with one question, "What was Lewis Carrol smoking?". Once revealed, with conclusive evidence, the stimulant in question ought to be legalised.