Realm Of Randomness

June 26, 2008

Once you go Indie …

Filed under: Movie,Review — Randomizer @ 2:10 am

Hollywood just doesn’t cut it anymore. Ever since watching Pan’s Labyrinth last year, I’ve been feeling the urge to watch more and more foreign films and independent movies. I’ve watched tons of them already, so many of which I’ve absolutely loved, and an equally good number of them that were flat out boring. So here are some good movies to watch, when you’re done with the Hulks and the Batmen( Batmans?) from this Summer… movies that are real, no graphics, no fancy effects, just stories of people and things that happen around them… movies dealing with simple things, complicated people and mostly fantastic acting… movies that perhaps need wine rather than popcorn, that are more for a Sunday afternoon than a Saturday night… movies that give you something to think about instead of an escape from it!

Before introducing the countdown, I just had to say – Avoid watching trailers at all costs, or reading the back of DVDs … these things spoil a good half of the movie, and in some extreme cases possibly even the entire movie itself! Also, Indie flicks don’t guarantee you a happy ending all the time, so if you’re one of those who goes by the ‘I have enough problems in my life already’ philosophy, this list is best left unread!

So here goes..

(10) Martin (Hache): This is a Spanish movie, based in Argentina and Spain. The dialogue is quite witty and the acting is pretty great.

(9) Water: Our very own Indian movie (which we banned and so later had to be entered as a Canadian film!) directed by Deepa Mehta is the story of a young widow in Varanasi. No matter how much we desis cringe at the exoticization of India in western media, there are stories that still need to be told, and this is one of them.

(8) The Diving bell and the Butterfly: Winner of tons of awards this year, this French movie is essentially a story of survival. It’s pretty motivational and you feel grateful for so many things once you’re done watching it. I read the story of this man in Reader’s Digest maybe a decade ago. This was the film adaptation of that true story.

(7) After the Wedding: Nominated for the Oscars for best foreign film but lost out to the ‘Lives of others’, which I will be talking about shortly. This was a Danish film, quite a Bollywood-ish story with all the twists and turns, but nevertheless quite entertaining.

(6) Bella: A sweet Spanish story revolving around two people, set in New York. It’s a nice watch, emotional at times, and very good acting.

(5) Half Nelson: The story of a teacher and one of his students, both with their own problems and pasts, and how they deal with their presents and futures.

(4) The Visitor: One of the few movies that has crossed the 90% barrier on Rotten Tomatoes (which is what I use for Movie ratings), it was the first movie that I cared to actually watch in a movie theater rather than use the DVD player at home. This is the story of a Professor in the US and his experience with an unexpected ‘visitor’… it’s in English, and is a pretty nice movie to watch.

(3) City of God: Wow, this movie was crazy. It’s raw Brazil, with the gangs, the poverty, the drugs and the crime. A must watch foreign film.

(2) The lives of others: Jeez, what a fantastic movie. This was the Oscar winner for the 2007 Best Foreign film award. I highly recommend this one. It’s a German film, set in East Germany, 1984. I’m not giving away anything more.

(1) Nobody Knows: It’s been 5 days since I watched this movie and I just can’t stop thinking about it. This movie is intense and long, so if you are the type who needs actions scenes more than subtleties, this isn’t for you… though I would still strongly suggest trying it out just to see. Set in Tokyo, this Japanese movie is about the lives of 4 children … and that is again all I am willing to give away. The direction is amazing, the scenes are fantastic, and the movie just grips you from start to finish. The actor who played the eldest of the kids won the Best Actor at Cannes in 2004… an award he definitely deserved.

… well, there you go. If you have any suggestions for good Indie or Foreign films, please do add them in the comments! Happy watching!


June 1, 2008

The Blind Watchmaker

Filed under: Book,Evolution,Intelligent Design,Review,Science — Randomizer @ 3:55 pm

Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I last posted. Call it a combination of longer hours at work and more things to do when I come back home, but this year has so far been a lot more ‘outdoorsy’ than any of the past three and I’m quite happy about that. Unfortunately, my reading time has been drastically shortened, and so it’s no wonder that completing ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ took me close to 3 months, when it should have been more like 2 weeks!

I loved this book by Richard Dawkins and wished I had read the whole thing in a stretch, because by the time I reached the last chapter, I had close to forgotten what happened in the first. I totally recommend this book, and do hope that once you start, you read at least a chapter a day to maintain the flow.

Dawkins has come to be more of the ‘face of Atheism’ these days, and that is quite sad because that is really not his forte. Evolutionary biology is his area of expertise and Atheism is just a mere consequence of the realities he came to accept being so convinced about this theory and what it actually means. This book, in many ways helped me celebrate the completion of one year since coming to terms with life and the universe and it has made me a lot more confident about this topic.

What surprised me most while reading the book was that the author not only has decades worth of knowledge about biology, but is also very well versed in computer programming and mathematics. He frequently uses these to help make his point, and as a programmer, it was pretty great to see things explained your way.

The book talks about a lot of things:

  • What exactly evolution is, and isn’t
  • How our organs appear to be ‘designed’, but why they aren’t
  • The technicalities – DNA/RNA, genes, traits
  • Does evolution occur gradually or in spurts ?
  • Debunking alternate theories

You might be wondering – what’s with the weird title of the book? I did too. It is actually a reference to the Watchmaker argument that says that if you are walking on a beach one day and stumble upon a watch in the sand, would you assume that the watch ‘just happened’ or that someone ‘designed’ it and left it there? Obviously, you assume the latter – and if you do, can’t we also say that living things (which are FAR more complicated than mere watches) were also ‘designed’ or ‘created’ the same way by God / Creator / Intelligent Designer?

Read the book to find out!

April 17, 2008

Stuff Indian People Like

Filed under: Humour,Internet,Review — Randomizer @ 12:50 am

For the uninformed readers for whom this title doesn’t ring a bell (and that would probably mean all of you who have a life besides the internet), let me educate you on the latest web phenomenon. A certain site called ‘Stuff White People Like‘ (SWPL) created on Jan 18th, 2008 and updated regularly since then, has achieved instant success with millions of hits per week and tons of publicity both in the online and the real world. The author has even gone on to receive a lucrative book deal from Random House, for a book by the same name.

Simply put, the site is a humorous and satirical view of a stereotypical liberal white person, and lists everything – ranging from caring about the environment, to coffee – that these ‘white people’ like. To get you started, here are some of the funnier posts I’ve read:

Stuff White People Like

There are many other funny posts, but I liked the Indie music and Apologies posts a lot :) …

Stuff Desi (Indian) People Like

Obviously, the next question for all of us desis is, is there a desi knock-off of the ‘SWPL’ site yet? Apparently, the #1 thing desis like to do is to make desi knock-offs of the original site, because I have come across at least 8 knock-offs already ! The following four are merely sites worth mentioning, and I’ve left out many other sites that have simply acquired a similar domain name and done nothing since then – ( Now there’s your typical desi, out to make a quick buck by holding on to a hot domain name! )

Anyway, in decreasing order of posts/readers( and hence, popularity) , we have

Once again, to get you started, here are some of the posts I liked, mainly from the top two sites above:

While I am not sure which of these sites will eventually win as the ‘established Indian version of SWPL’, its certainly good that many people are attempting it and eventually, the one with the best quality will win, not just the best domain name. I’m sure the eventual winner will be quite a fun site to read every once in a while.

Good luck to them, and may the best knock-off win !

March 2, 2008

Desi YouTube videos I like

Filed under: Internet,Review — Randomizer @ 7:49 pm

If you’ve noticed a slump in the frequency of blog posts, well, it’s because of my latest internet adventure, my YouTube channel (link in my FB/orkut, not on this website). Though I have plans for a short movie some time this year, all I’ve uploaded so far are some music videos of covers I’ve been practicing. So far, it’s been fun, and hey, it gives me a reason to pick up my guitar every once in a while and prevents the cobwebs from conquering a new neighborhood!

Spending a lot of time on YT these days, I’ve noticed that there isn’t much desi content out there. It seems to be pretty much American-dominated as of now, and I’m really curious to see what it will look like once video uploads become more mainstream in India. I’d give this about 2 years. Digi-cams and high internet speeds are increasingly becoming a part of the middle class, and soon enough, I’m sure we’ll be seeing some good original desi content on our screens ! As of now, most of the desi videos seem to be from desi diaspora or mainstream TV. Here’s a countdown of my favourite desi YT picks:

(8) Tamil rap song ‘Kuttali’ – By Malaysian-desi rap group ( I swear one of them looks like Snoop Dog! )

(7) It’s the Singhsons ! – Punjabi version of the Simpsons intro, pretty ok.

(6) Gay Indian stand-up comedy act – How often do you hear of a gay, indian comedian? His video is hilarious :)

(5) Indian Cricket – Great fielding moments – Set to a pretty sweet punjabi song

(4) Reverse Outsourcing – LOL. Hard to find a comedian funnier or at least as funny as Russel Peters!

(3) Sheena Melwani (Cover of Alicia Keys’ No One) – Sheena’s getting pretty popular on YouTube, and she should get signed pretty soon, if not already. Good luck to her. Her name sounds desi and she looks desi as well, but I don’t know any more details other than her being an awesome singer.

(2) Penn Masala’s Facebook Skit – My #2 desi video pick…. Not only hilarious but great sounding as well. Excellent work, this was featured on YouTube. Great video, great voices. Superb job by the folks at U Penn.

(1) Indian Rap in 5 languages – Very catchy tune from an SF-based desi rap group. Best desi rap I’ve heard so far.

Hope you liked the list! If you have some other favs, please post the link in the comments section! Happy surfing :)

January 24, 2008

Assorted movie reviews

Filed under: Movie,Review — Randomizer @ 2:51 am

Here’s a movie round-up from the last couple of months. I think it’s fair to say that I have averaged at least a movie a week not including my DVD rentals :-P. There are NO SPOILERS in the following reviews, and the rating should hopefully only serve as a guide to whether or not you should watch this particular movie.

Juno A+

I watched this movie twice already. The lead actress, Ellen Page, has been nominated for an Oscar for this role, and this movie is already an Oscar nominee for Best film! Witty from start to finish, the dialogue is like a game of pro-level table tennis, quick and sharp. It’s not only hilarious but heart warming as well, with the familiar Michael Cera playing what is becoming his standard character these days, but no one’s complaining. A must watch by all means, and definitely my choice for the Oscar’s best movie.

Cloverfield A- This movie was a masterpiece in directing/cinematography/visual effects . To really enjoy it, you really need to try not to step away and be skeptical or over-analyze it when you watch it. If you do, it might come across silly at times, but otherwise, it’s a real gripping film. It was directed by the creator of the hit TV series Lost, so you can expect some high quality scenes in this movie.

Taare Zameen Par A-

I’m guessing I’m one of the last people to have watched this movie. I loved it, I thought it was superb, and I’m even happier that it was a box office hit as well. The official site is pretty impressive, check it out. Superb acting all round, and pretty realistic. Could have been a little shorter in my opinion, which is the only reason there’s a – next to the A. If a movie can move you close to tears, then heck, it’s done it’s job of having the viewer totally engrossed.

Beowulf B+

You should watch this in a 3D theater or you shouldn’t watch it at all. If you like fantasy, folklore, and tales of magical creatures, you will really like this movie. The graphics was pretty amazing. Definitely one of the better animated flicks of 2007.

No Country for Old Men B+

This one’s up for 8 Oscar nominations this year! I thought it was a good thriller, excellent direction, and great acting. I’d give it only a B+ though, for reasons we could discuss after you watch it !

American Gangster B+

This isn’t really a ‘theater’ movie, I guess you can wait for the DVD or whatever. But it is a good watch, great performances by Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe.

I am legend B-

Good scenes, good footage, good video effects, good acting by Will Smith. I’d say it’s a mix of Castaway and 28 days later… except it was much less realistic than both of them. I’d say you could wait to watch this on your TV / DVD as well.

Dan in real life B-

Ok I know I must be sounding like the most jobless person on the planet :-P , but going to watch a movie has become quite a habit over the last year, especially since it was my only entertainment during the long months of my thesis. Anyway, Dan in real life was a sweet comedy… a romantic comedy would be more like it I’d think.

Away from her B-

This is a very Oscar-esque movie, and rightly so – it’s nominated the lead actress Julie Christie for an Oscar. It’s pretty ‘senti’, and ‘slow’, but it’s sweet nevertheless.. I’m not sure how many of you would be up for it… especially given that description :)

I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry F

The worst movie ever made. I do not want to waste any more bits of storage on the wordpress servers dissing this movie, so I will stop right here.

Hope to see some more great flicks this year !

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