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I Heart 7 This Week, 8-15 August 2015

Weekly round-up of things I bookmarked, laughed at, wanted to do for a living (if only for a week).

READ

Inspiration and Obsession in Life and Literature

COOK

Blackcurrant Cheesecake

WEAR

Zebra Stripes in Style like Olivia Palermo

SEE

La Dolce Vita

LAUGH

Kids Re-Enact Republican Debate

LISTEN

Beatles’ Shea Stadium Concert

beatles

DO

Pack Your Life into Suitcases Yourself

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Two Hoots for Tom Cruise

New Yorker recently called him “the good kind of crazy“.
The husband said “go fall in love with him again”.
Two Hoots for Tom Cruise_Image via pagesix.com
In college cafeteria debates when he was pitted against Pitt, I always sided with Tom Cruise. He was formulaic, chiselled, too handsome to be any good as an actor. But I watched everything, even Vanilla Sky, or especially, because he was semi-naked in parts, though Eyes Wide Shut is better for that. And including the time we (then boyfriend, now husband, who makes an exception for Cruise starrers to his ‘Nothing below 7.5 rating’ for movie viewing) ran across an empty parking lot, chased by questions from napping bus drivers, to watch the first day first show of The Last Samurai.

Something went amiss when he became a Scientology crusader & to my mind went cuckoo. I was done, with reading everything about him. The films? That was another story.

Reprising his role as Ethan Hunt in the fifth instalment of the Mission Impossible series, he’s joined by the usual company of comic sidekick, trusted friends & a brand new leggy lass, this time taking on a ‘rogue’ former British Intelligence agent.

Adrenaline rush entry, check. High speed chase, in a car & bike, check. Masking, unmasking, check. You could not see it and still know everyone gets out alive.

On a Sunday afternoon in a movie hall full to the brim, Tom Cruise’s wide screen entry received whistles once reserved for gyrating sirens. Toddlers and octogenarians were also in attendance, to watch a quintessential Hollywood blockbuster, not the film, but the man. Jumping on Oprah’s couch in real life and, off tall buildings & flying airplanes & down into shafts in films, he is the entertainer who wants you to forget what you had for lunch. He does his own stunts and wants everyone to know that. This series in particular is his way of celebrating his awesomeness, while leaving no time for analysis, discourse, comprehension. You sit, watch, leave.

This is not Color of Money or A Few Good Men, opposite stalwarts like Paul Newman & Jack Nicholson. It is Tom’s world, where no one, not even the villain, overshadows him, quite unlike action packed thrillers in recent times like Heath Ledger as the Joker in Christopher Nolan directed Dark Knight or Javier Bardem’s slow, studied evil form against Daniel Craig’s Bond in Skyfall.

Mission Impossible is not the platform for anyone else to shine, to play the anti-hero, to lead an audience astray. In this self-created world, Ethan Hunt is Tom Cruise –  pure good, unmatched, and, as Alec Baldwin will tell us at the fag end of the film, “destiny”.

Few will complain or question. Off screen he may have missed the Golden Statuette thrice, but for many movie-goers filing out as the familiar M.I. soundtrack comes on, he had them at “Hello”. And if the end is anything to go by, we’ll be seeing him again, soon.

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(F)lashback ’07: The Night of The Fog

On a balmy weekend in June nearly seven years ago, I found this film The Fog while surfing channels. It is supposed to be scary so I watched in eagerness. I got to it after it had been on for about half an hour so it took me a while to understand who or what was going to spook me. Of course they made it easy by putting the name of the scare-element in the title.

So basically the Fog is following people around and killing them. And I was sitting alone in my living room, trying my best to imagine that the Fog was going to get me too. It didn’t happen. I mean how unpredictable are car breakdowns or phone lines going dead or people (very stupid ones) going out into the dark, menacing night with a lantern. You will get killed.

And there is no forgiving the unpalatability of actually seeing a ghost in a horror film. Why do they assume that people with bad make-up can pass off as ghosts? Who actually decides that this is what ghosts must look like? Is there a council out there that lays down guidelines on appropriate ghost look and behaviour?

In real life people usually get scared of things they sense but don’t actually see. So when I was following the trio in the Blair Witch Project, I knew anything could happen and I was excited. Well yes it’s a jungle and there are going to be animal sounds and weird shapes in the dark. I didn’t get scared out of my wits but at least they weren’t showing me women in white or men in black.

I guess it is mostly a case of to each her own ghost. I remember getting spooked by the T-Rex dinosaur in Jurassic Park when I saw the film as a kid. It was raining that night and I could swear I saw that slimy thing outside my bedroom window. Then there were the late night visits to the boarding school bathroom, made spookily-special by rustling trees and howling winds and the knowledge that like every other Convent yours was built on a graveyard too.

That was ages ago. Now there aren’t any imaginary beings outside my window or monsters under my bed. I have to try real hard to let well-intentioned horror flicks scare me. Perhaps the time has come to send a message across to those who care: Spirits of the world unite and spook me baby one more time.

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Today I met the Queen…

…Not the octogenarian in England.

I’m referring to the Hindi film that has been receiving rave reviews since it released about two weeks ago.

Over the years most of my movie viewing experience has involved waiting for reviews (mostly from multiple ‘professional’ critics) before standing in line for a ticket. There was the sole instance of running across a deserted parking lot to catch a 10am first-day-first-show of ‘The Last Samurai’. But that was more about a Tom Cruise phase and mostly about the boy I was running with.

As it stands, I end up watching very few Hindi films in theatres. The industry produces an obscene number of very trashy material every year that I have no tolerance for. And when there is something interesting to watch there’s the challenge of finding a willing partner. One CAN watch a film alone, (It was just me at ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ for instance), but something about Hindi films makes them more family outing (adults only) friendly. As it turned out, all through dating years the boyfriend never wanted to step anywhere Hindi films. But now that he is the husband he has no choice.

So after the girls at work (and random people on twitter) were gushing over ‘Queen’ (“Every woman should watch this film”) I decided to force my man along and make a Sunday of it. Keeping clear of spoilers, I had been given to understand that this was going to be about a woman finding herself, in some form or another.

Having seen it and under no obligation to keep quiet, an elevator synopsis would explain it thus (SPOILER ALERT): Simple, sober, homely Delhi Girl gets stood up at the altar – decides to go on her honeymoon alone – Gets to Paris where she faces troubles at first but triumphs, meets French-Indian free-spirited woman who helps her loosen up (with ample alcohol) and widens her horizon (not ‘Mulholland Drive’ wide. That’s illegal here) – our Delhi girl then travels to Amsterdam where she continues her vacation at a hostel, sharing her room with three appropriately-ethnically-diverse men (French, Japanese, Russian) and finally finds herself.

I will give the film brownie points for not labouring on any matter endlessly and instead maintaining the feel of a holiday everyone is taking alongside the girl while she ‘discovers’ herself. But I will not call it a “path-breaking” film and am surprised so many people are labelling it that. It is peppered with several formulaic features like typical Delhi humour that has become quite common in recent films (Punjabi music, jokes, supporting actors and their quirks), cardboard characters she meets during her trip with their little background stories (Parisian girl with child out of wedlock because “that’s what people do here”, Muslim girl working at a strip club in Amsterdam to support her family, Japanese roommate who lost his parents in the Tsunami etc.). The only real departure it makes from the norm (of Hindi films) is side-lining the need for a male partner in the scheme of things.

It seems to me that the main reason everyone is applauding this film is the centrality of the female gaze and perspective and the fact that the film ends with a rejection of the reconciliatory advances of the fiancé who had left her at the altar. Perhaps the culmination with her walking out of his house after an honest hug is to complete the circle the film had begun with their cancelled wedding at the outset.

So riddle me this: Why is it that in coming-of-age films with central male characters, women are incidental to the story (usually only as sexual partners) and not linked to the man’s journey to self-discovery? And here everyone is rushing to applaud a film where a female character’s self-worth emanates most significantly from her rejection of a subscribed relationship?

Perhaps a truly “path-breaking” Hindi film that sets out to celebrate freedom would be one that does not need to establish a male character who must be rejected/accepted by the woman in order for her to discover herself.

And it should be family outing and popcorn-cola worthy. For all else there’s After Hours with Simone de Beauvoir.