Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Marathon: Buried

Hollywood films come in plethora of genres, romantic comedy, teenage romantic comedy, comedy, romance, drama, thriller, horror, action and so on. But when it comes to movies, I only have two distinctions, cerebral vs. brainless-fun movies. I watch the latter type of movies like "Easy A", when I just want a good entertainer that does not require too much thinking or deep mental provocation. The former type, on the other hand, includes movies that have a visceral effect on me. In the recent past, movies like "127 Hours", and "Toy Story 3" really moved me both intellectually and emotionally.

"Buried" classified as a thriller is neither a cerebral nor a brainless-fun movie. It is a movie that never really makes a case for itself. The story-line holds a lot of promise, but the movie sadly never takes off. "Buried" is about an American truck driver who is buried alive inside a coffin in Iraq, with nothing but a blackberry. He is held for ransom by Iraqi insurgents, who ask him to make a plea video and call his supervisors back in Washington for five million dollars. He uses the phone to call his family, FBI, and the private trucking company he works for. But, he is either put on hold or gets the answering machine.

The movie is somewhat about the politics and immorality of the Iraq War. It is somewhat about the value of human life. It is somewhat about the bureaucracy of American corporations and how they do not give a rat's ass about the lives being lost in Iraq. "Buried" touches upon a lot of themes but does not fully grab onto one theme to make a connection with the audience. Ryan Reynolds plays the lead role. I don't know if it was his poor acting or the shallow script but I did not care about his fate in the movie. I did not care whether he would be able to arrange for five million dollars from the grave, or whether he would get to talk to his family. Even though, as an audience I was not able to bond with the character, I was also not utterly bored. I watched the movie waiting for something to happen.

This movie is based on a good idea, but fails in delivery because of the poor script. The most interesting point the movie makes is that even though the protagonist is able to get a good network connection from six feet under, he still struggles to get help.

p.s. I want to know who the network provider was!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Movie Marathon: Easy A

"Easy A" is a romantic comedy starring Emma Stone, which is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. The novel is about an adulterous woman, Hester Prynne, whose actions are publicly condemned by her Puritan society, and the same man who is an equal partner in her sin. The movie is a smart comedy about a generation that is greatly linked through texting and other social networking websites.

I recently read an article in the NY Times regarding the demise of emailing. Our generation prefers to communicate through texting or instant messaging. I remember when I was a teenager my friends and I preferred to communicate through MSN messaging, or emails. Then Facebook came along, and we started writing on each other's walls. We commented on oodles of pictures that our friends posted. However, things changed a couple of years ago, when people realized that information on social networking sites such as Facebook is not very private, and in fact very public. The shift happened, instead of sharing our pictures with everyone on our friends list we became more discreet. And, instead of writing on each other's walls, we started private messaging each other.

The way we communicate has changed a lot in the last 15 years. My husband and I prefer to either text or "talk" to each other on gtalk. We both have android phones which make keeping in touch and sharing quick updates on gtalk much easier. My major concern about texting is that kids are not using proper grammar and/or spellings. In the world of spell check, abbreviated syntax and 140 characters long sentences, the art of beautiful composition is at abysmal loss.

What "Easy A" shows that no matter what the preferred medium of communication is, gossip travels fast. And it is no picnic to be a teenager! The other interesting theme the movie touches upon is that high school kids do not read the books they are taught in English class. They either rent the film versions of the books, or rely upon SparkNotes. The books on the high school reading list seem dated to the students, but as the movie shows, they are far more relevant than they appear to be. In the past, myriad of classics have been turned into teenage romantic comedies. The list entails, Emma ("Clueless"), Romeo and Juliet ("Romeo + Juliet"), Taming of the Shrew ("10 Things I Hate About You"), Othello ("O"), Twelfth Night ("She's the Man"), and so on.

Emma Stone is wonderful in the movie. If you are looking for a fun and yet not a dumb movie, do check this one out. I will be posting more reviews throughout this week, as I have some time off until the next semester starts. My husband and I have a rather ambitious list of movies we want to finish watching during the holidays.

Disclaimer: For the sake of my husband's street-cred I should mention that I watched this movie without him.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lessons Learned after 1 year of Marriage

1. Nagging has its merits.
2. A little bit of patience goes a long way.
3. Onions make you cry, so after peeling them put them in the freezer for a minute or two.
4. Marriage makes you smarter. I am taking courses at Berkeley for Heaven's sake :).
5. Never read a depressing, albeit engrossing, book like Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom'. It is a social commentary of our modern day dysfunctional nuclear family. The book would make you utterly depressed about the current dismal state of marriage in our society.
6. TV shows play a crucial role in the success of a marriage. Have specific shows that the both of you should watch exclusively with each other.
7. Traveling with the spouse is fun.
8. Don't act on emotions right away. Give them some time to settle and coherently discuss any conflicts you may have.
9. Never go to bed angry.
10. Never have the same argument twice. Move on. The important thing is you both love each other and nothing can separate you.
11. Snoring should be taken as a sign of love and trust.
12. The key to a man's heart is through his stomach.
13. Ironing burns calories.
14. Even small romantic gestures go a long way.
15. Grow together. Learn from each other.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Heads or Tails

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Thousands died on 9/11, and thousands of innocent people are dying in Afghanistan, and Iraq. America waged two wars in Asia after 9/11. And, like any other war, American soldiers are losing their lives, and taking lives of many innocent people who have nothing to do with the doctrine of Bin Laden or any other fundamentalist group out there.

For American Muslims, August was probably the worst month. Muslims were called a lot of names in the media, all because they wanted to build a community centre near Ground Zero. The issue of Islamic extremism was plastered over and discussed on every single news channel. But, what the media refused to acknowledge, explicitly, was that the elements of extremism also exist in their American society. Fanatics like Pastor Terry Jones, Pamela Geller and the Fox News clan, in my humble opinion, belong under the extremism umbrella. They are doing an awesome job in dividing the American society and deteriorating peace. If you objectively look at the narrative of Al-Qaeda (Bin Laden clan) and right-wing ignorant Americans (The Fox News clan) they are the same. Their narrative is antagonizing, offensive, manipulative, and simply hatefully ignorant.

I am typing this as I am watching 60 Minutes' cover story, A Relentless Enemy, about the war in Afghanistan. Lara Logan reports, American lives are in danger in Afghanistan. They are being attacked by unknown Afghans and Pakistanis, when all the Americans want in return is peace.

This is expected when the war Americans are fighting is so abstract. The "War on Terror" is a very abstract phrase. What is terror? Who are terrorists? These two terminologies have never been clearly defined. And, yet so many of our soldiers (both American and Canadian) have lost their lives in the past 9 years. My heart goes out to them as much as my heart goes out to the innocent civilians who lose their lives everyday. Sometimes because of the drone attacks. What I find so inhumane about the drone attacks is that in the eyes of Americans these civilians are so worthless that they can just die by a machine with the push of a button. The lives of these civilians are so worthless that they don't even deserve to die by someone who would be able to experience the direct repercussions of his or her actions. The lives of these civilians are so worthless that they don't even deserve to get killed by a human, but by a machine; just like how animals are slaughtered by a machine in an assembly line.

There are peace loving Americans. And, there are peace loving Muslims. The moderates, which I believe is the majority, want the same thing - peace. But sadly their message gets lost and never crosses over to the other side.

The problem we are faced with is that we never see both sides of story. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have two different narrations, "theirs" and "ours". Now that the war in Iraq is supposedly "over" we may term it a victory, but the country is still unstable. We may call the Karzai government in Afghanistan a democracy, in other words a success, but his government is extremely corrupt. Just like there are always two sides of the same story, there are extremists on both ends of the "West vs. Islam" spectrum. Until we don't recognize the similarities between the two extremist camps we would be stuck in the same abyss, which is the war on terror.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Toy Story 3

Moving on and/or growing up requires one to come in terms with their new role in life. And, this is the theme of Toy Story 3, a very emotional animated film by Pixar, which perfectly tells the story of what love and moving on is. Love is fluid and in many ways impermanent and immortal at the same time. It is an abstract feeling which is not fixed in time or place. The distance doesn't change our love it just reshapes, and redefines it.

Our adolescence is dominated with the feeling that we are the absolute centre of the universe. We feel we are misunderstood by everyone because we are "oh so very unique". We want everything; and everything is possible. We live by the doctrine "All or nothing" as Shakespeare showed in "Romeo and Juliet". If the 15 year old Juliet couldn't live with her teenage Romeo she didn't want to live at all. But, as we grow up we become more aware of our own limitations. This self-awareness may lead to disappointment and dismay as Richard Yates depicted in "Revolutionary Road".

But growing up is also an evolution of our relationships. I feel I have learnt a lot in these past 9 months of marriage. Living away from home (Toronto), and the distance of almost an entire continent forced me to reevaluate my life, and my relationship with my family and friends. Recently I was back in Toronto for one whole month. I had anticipated that my time there would be the same as what my life was like before I got married and moved to California. But my month long stay made me realize that my life is in California now. Until my husband and I move back to Canada for good, I would always be a visitor...guest...there.

As humans we are very adaptable. Life is constantly changing around us, and like the toys in the movie, we are forced to adapt to these changes. Holding onto the past would only lead to unhappiness.

But then again it's good to hold onto some traditions. For instance, I waited a whole month to watch Toy Story, so I could honour the tradition of watching Pixar productions with my sister. And, it was worth the wait.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Justin Halpern: Sh*t My Dad Says

I like to eavesdrop on other people's conversations when I go out to eat. My sister shares this secret shame with me. Trust me this is not because we are snoopy, it's just usually we have nothing interesting to say to each other, so we rely on other people to entertain us. Recently, when I was out having dinner, there was a group of friends sitting at a table next to mine. Judging the way they were showing off their phones, it seemed that they had not seen each other for a while, and had recently reconnected thanks to the mighty Facebook. It is amusing that now when long lost friends have reunions they feel the need to whip out their cellphones, and marvel on the little wonders their gizmo can do.

Technology has changed our social behaviour at such an exponential rate that sometimes we need blunt people like Justin Halpern's father to provide an honest social commentary.
Son, no one gives a sh*t about all the things your cell phone does. You didn't invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.
Sh*t My Dad Says is a "LOL-funny" book (memoir) based on Halpern's Twitter account. Halpern started tweeting about the random stuff his father says, which not only got him this book deal, but he also has a sitcom with the same title premiering this fall. This book is another testament of the way technology now allows us to share our ideas with millions. Thanks to blogging and tweeting people have the possibility of getting their work published without having to worry about running after publishers and literary agents.

I really enjoyed reading this hilarious book. So if you are looking for a light read do check it out.

Here is my favourite sh*t Justin Halpern's Dad said:

On Chivalry
Give your mother the front seat...I don't give a sh*t if she said you could have it, that's what she's supposed to do, and you're supposed to say, 'No, I insist.' You think I'm gonna drive around with my wife in the backseat and a nine-year-old in the front? You're a crazy son of a b*tch.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Should You Judge This Book by Its Cover?

"He who hesitates is lost" vs. "Everything comes to he who waits."

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder" vs. "Out of sight, out of mind."

"You can't teach an old dog new tricks" vs. "It's never too late to learn."

"The best things in life are free" vs. "There is no such thing as a free lunch."

"Seeing is believing" vs. "Appearances could be deceptive."

"Tomorrow is another day" vs. "Tomorrow never comes."

It's rather funny to notice how the above aphorisms contradict each other. No wonder proverbs are so confusing. In his new book Should You Judge This Book by Its Cover? the author Julian Baggini deconstructs 100 well-known proverbs and phrases we frequently misuse.

The book seems interesting. But, then, not everything that glitters is gold, eh? I am waiting for the Kindle version to be released, so I can read the book on my Kindle. Since I don't want to judge this book by its cover :).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Machu Picchu

When I met my husband for the first time, a year ago today, we didn't talk much. To me he was just one of the many guys my parents were forcing encouraging me to meet. All I knew was that he worked and lived in California. Since I had no plans of leaving Toronto, I just sat there comfortably on my cynical high horse, while he tried to impress my folks. He was talking to my father about work, and I found him boring. But, when he was finally leaving he gave me the most sincere and sweet smile.

It was because of this smile I agreed to meet him again for our second date. My second first impression of him was completely different from my first. He was so not boring. I found him witty, intelligent, and humble. I saw respect in his eyes. We talked about a lot of things including my research and the swine flu. It was when we were talking about Peru, I realized that it would be a great loss, if I didn't get to spend the rest of my life with him. Since I got the feeling that he would always take care of me. While I was having this epiphany my brain completely froze, and I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the name of the Inca site, Machu Picchu, we were talking about. I literally blanked out for five minutes and then ended up apologizing for my ditziness.

Four months later we got married, and I have been living in the States for the past seven months now. It has taken me a year to actually blog about my love story. Cheesy, I know. Everything with us happened so fast that it got very overwhelming at times. In the first few months I couldn't make sense of it all. But the reason this relationship worked out for us because we knew exactly what we were looking for. So when we finally met each other we didn't waste anytime.

I have realized that what makes marriage work is the commitment the husband and wife have for each other. If it is important for them to have a happy married life, they would do whatever it takes to make it work. Superficial aspects, like oh we must like the same shows, or read the same books are not important in the long run. If the husband and wife both want to keep each other happy they would do whatever it takes to make that happen.

I know it sounds like a simple concept. Just be committed to being committed. But it seems so elusive in today's world. We care too much about the material things.

Life is wonderful and complete, if at the end of the day, you, your loved ones, and your family are healthy and happy. That's all that matters. I know we lose sight of that sometimes. Even I lose sight of that. Living away from family in the States has been a difficult challenge for me. It has made me a snobby patriotic Canadian. But, the fact that I have my husband with me makes everything okay. I can cry to him when I miss home. I can talk to him when I get frustrated. It's just at the end of the day I know he will do anything and everything to keep me happy. And, that is what has made this past one year so remarkably beautiful.