Wednesday, November 25, 2009

India at the White House

It's been really interesting to follow the media coverage of the security breach that occurred last night at the first White House State Dinner of the Obama administration. Two reality-TV wannabes walked through a Secret Service security checkpoint and had their pictures taken with Katie Couric, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. I kid you not. The couple - who are being looked at by a production company for a new Bravo-TV series "The Real Housewives of Washigton, DC" - even posted their pictures on Facebook! The story is dominating the American media tonight, but one is hard pressed to find more than a single mention of this embarrassing diplomatic and security Keystone Kops amateurism in all of the Indian media. What an international embarrassment!
CNN yesterday made a big deal of the fact that Jennifer Hudson would be performing a quartet of "American standards." Ho hum. Of far greater importance was that A. R. Rahman performed (he too was photographed in a joint shoot with the party crashers). For Harold & Kumar fans, our old onscreen stoner buddy Kal Penn was "in the House." Jai Ho!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bad rabbis

Take a look at the article I wrote, just published in my colleague Silk's Religion in the News. The article is entitled "Airing the Syrian Laundry."

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Flood: 2012 Movie Review

Roland Emmerich's latest disaster movie "2012" opened today, and -- nerd that I am -- I relived some of my happier midnight showing escapades (various Star Trek, Star Wars, and Matrix movies) last night by going to the 12:01 am showing. Fortunately it was in the large Odyssey theater, so the screen was gigantic and the 15,000 watts of sound was crystalline. The movie clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 38 minutes, and reportedly cost Sony Pictures $260 million to make. Order the large popcorn, and make sure to get a refill during one of the predictably dull exposition scenes that pock the movie every 15 minutes or so.
I like most of Emmerich's stuff. I like end of the world movies, and the genres are endless. There are the nuclear war movies; the alien movies; the natural disaster movies, even the evangelical Christian movies. Emmerich has done some of the best. He tells stories well and has the vision to concoct fantastic special effects. It's always entertaining.
This new movie is no different. It was entertaining. But it wasn't very good. The reason I walk away from the movie with such ambivalence is that on the one hand it delivered the goods; but on the other hand it was an exercise in derivative conceits and winks. It broke new ground visually and it was totalistic in its vision; and at the same time it felt tiresome and uninspired.
All the tricks and plot lines of the genre were out in full force. Most of the acting was believable and convincing (save for Danny Glover's wooden performance as the last President of the United States), and the story moved from Act to Act at a reasonable pace. But nothing any of the actors did or said was intriguing or worth remembering. All that mattered was the CGI.
One thing I could not get out of my head: how could people use cell phones as all the world's infrastructure was blown away? The cell networks are the first thing to go. But there we are with everyone jabbering away on what seemd to be the exact same phone. Product placements abounded: Bentley got a shout out, and it was no surprise that every scientist seemed to have a SONY VAIO laptop. Just more creative financing for a quarter of a billion dollar movie.
In the end, the movie is a fantasy-day flood epic, giraffes and all (though like all things today, the ark is "Made in China" -- not in Mesopotamia). It doesn't rain for 40 days and 40 nights, but there's even a character named Noah. None of it makes any sense.
Bottom line: it's not worth the $12 (.000000046 of $260,000,000). Watch the free trailer, and wait for the BluRay rental, or the torrent. That way, with a good remote, you can treat it like porn (which it is): skip through the crap, and reduce 158 minutes of tedium to 40 minutes of fun.