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Contention with the classics

Originally posted on Blog of Natalie Gorna:

The genre we have named “the classics” are a tricky bunch to like.  It’s not just that some are written in a foreign language or in a dialect of one’s native language that is centuries/decades old.  Or that the author takes forever to get to “plot progression” (in other words, making the story go on). Or that the whole book can be literally exhausting for the mind to understand.  It’s not the length, the subgenre, the writing style, the vocabulary, or the time period when the work was written.  Public pressure, media adoration, film adaptations: these are all factors to consider. Usually every person has expectations (e.g. from recommendations and favorite TV series) for the classics, especially in view of that worldwide thought that classic reading is good reading. And when it comes to reading certain classics, it’s literally like trying to translate your modern understanding of the work and/or your preconceptions into a entirely different language when your mind is processing the actual, original text.

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Rose – Review

Rose_300

Courtesy kemalyildirim.com

Title: Rose
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless (with Jack James)
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

Back in 2008, UK director Kemal Yildirim released an impressive sleeper film called Rosereview). The film was based on a true story about a young woman tragically hooked on drugs. In 2012 Yildirim retold the story with a revised cast and storyline. The reimagined Rose review) was a giant leap forward from the original film’s promising beginnings.

Today, we have a third Rose. To be honest, having reviewed the story twice, when asked to review the third incarnation I wondered if the director could really make it any better. Hadn’t Yildirim already made a bold statement with his 2012 remake? The critics seemed to think so.

Well, a couple of years have passed and Yildirim clearly hasn’t stood still. His artistic sense is sharper than in earlier versions of this film. This new Rose is about 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor. But the edits are so seamless that it’s hard to tell exactly what was altered. Nothing seems missing and everything comes off fluid and coherent.

Indeed, this version of Rose is cinematic proof that less can be more.

Although the basic storyline remains unchanged, there is a subliminal shift in emphasis—slightly less sex and violence and a more nuanced treatment of the relationship between Rose and her daughter Ellie. At least, this is how I saw it. For those, like me, who’ve already watched the second Rose, this new take presents an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve grown as viewers. Is our new understanding of the story based on changes within the film or on changes within ourselves?

Rose and Ellie

Rose and Ellie

Not to say that Rose is an ink blot. It definitely has a focused message, that of redemption against all odds. And a lot happens. But the film maintains a kind of soulful detachment that keeps it from falling into the genre of “action flick.” Several techniques are used to achieve this effect. Glide shots, ceiling shots, and steady sequences reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where dialogue is implied rather than heard.

No, Rose isn’t an action film. It’s arguably a meditation. And if viewed that way, we gain insight not only into another side of life, but maybe even into ourselves.

Strong leading performances and an enticing supportive cast ensure that this haunting film hits home. So if by chance you’ve seen earlier incarnations of Rose and think you’ve seen it all, think again. This rendering gets under our skin like no Rose before.

—MC


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Indo-Americans object to derogatory remarks in Jason Bateman movie

English: Jason Bateman at the 2007 Toronto Int...

Jason Bateman at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

Indo-Americans are upset over stereotyping their community in upcoming Jason Bateman comedy “Bad Words”.

Referring to Red Band trailer of the movie, Indo-American Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that addressing an Indo-American kid as “Hey Slumdog” and using the words “curry hole” for him smelled of xenophobia and racism.

Zed, who is Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, stressed that Indo-Americans were for free speech as much anybody else if not more. But unnecessarily belittling a community with stereotyped remarks, even in a comedy, hurt the community. Filmmakers should be more responsible while handling race and faith related subjects, as cinema was a very powerful medium.

Moreover, talking to a young child that way was really inappropriate and disappointing, Rajan Zed argued.

Zed has urged the filmmaker to remove the words derogatory to Indo-American community in the movie and trailer and offer a formal apology.

Directed and starred by Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)  and rated R (Restricted), “Bad Words” is scheduled for release in USA in March next.

As indicated at the beginning of the trailer, don’t watch this if you don’t want to hear crude and vulgar language… (ed.)


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Scientists have resurrected the dinosaur from prehistoric DNA… and they’ve called it David Bowie “Rex”

Image via Tumblr

And oh, what a cool beast he is!

Word’s out that the new David Bowie lp is good. So I had to have a listen. And yes, it is… GREAT. After years of diddling around in fashion shows and patting his movie maker son on the back, The Reverend Bowie is back, and wow, this new stuff is hot.

Excuse me for mixing metaphors, scientific and religious. But I think in Bowie’s case it’s justified. I’ve just listened to The Next Day for the first time but already I can discern some really hip 70s and early 80s FM radio influences. A bit of Jim Morrison, Chicago, The Eagles, Heart, Stray Cats, Fleetwood Mac, King Crimson, Yes, Roxy Music, you name it. All the good stuff. It’s like Bowie has run it through some huge refractor lens and bounced it back in a new way for 2013. In a word, focus. And this lp has got it in spades.

A real victory, artistic and otherwise.

—MC

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DVD Review – The Initiation of Alice in Wonderland: The Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll

Title: The Initiation of Alice in Wonderland: The Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Mystery, Fantasy
Production Company: Reality Films

I picked up my very first copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland while doing graduate work in India. Renowned for its mysticism and unusual happenings, India seemed like an appropriate place to enter into the intriguing world of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, best known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Funnily enough, I never read the entire book. I tried several times but for some reason it just didn’t work. Perhaps Carroll was a bit too intellectual for my tastes. Although the book is often regarded as a nonsense tale, author/director Philip Gardiner and co-writer Brian Allan rightly point out in The Initiation of Alice in Wonderland: The Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll that it’s anything but nonsense.

We all know the basic story. Alice’s adventures have become a part of pop culture. The rock group Jefferson Airplane released a hit single “White Rabbit” on their 1967 record Surrealistic Pillow, and the Quantum Physics/New Age movie What the Bleep Do We Know?! (2004) was enhanced and expanded in a 2006 version called What the Bleep!?: Down the Rabbit Hole.

Although I’m reviewing this DVD without having fully read Alice In Wonderland, that doesn’t really matter. If I can enjoy a documentary about a book I haven’t finished, if I can get what the film is saying and learn from it, then that’s a testament to the skillfulness of its creators. And this is what happened with The Initiation of Alice in Wonderland.

The DVD has provocative biographical material on Carroll’s childhood, struggles with his family’s Anglican religion, Oxford days as a respected mathematician, and possible links with the esoterica of Theosophy and the Rosicrucians. It also delves into his controversial pursuits as a photographer, a hobby that seemed to reflect an interest in girls.

The commentary on the controversy around Carroll’s photos of nude or semi-nude girls is noteworthy. Essentially, The Initiation of Alice asks us to bracket our 21st century Western notions of normality and try to imagine things as they might have been in the genteel Victorian circles in which Carroll moved.

This segment of the DVD should spark heated dialogue around notions of absolute versus cultural morality. Perhaps we can leave it to God to know the right answer to this potentially divisive issue.

After working through Carroll’s biography, the film moves, quite competently, into the imaginary world of Alice. The novel Alice in Wonderland is mostly interpreted from the perspective of contemporary Gnosticism, where several belief systems are said to point to a common inner truth.

On the whole, the analysis of Alice’s underground adventures conforms to the Jungian idea of a collective unconscious where the conventional rules of space and time no longer apply. And like Jung’s work, the concepts of magical, mystical and The Holy are not as clearly delineated as some might like.

For instance, when exploring the symbolism of Alice’s ingesting unusual substances in Wonderland, The Initiation of Alice sets up an analogy between the reception of the Holy Eucharist and taking psychedelic mushrooms.

Gardiner and Allan’s extensive analogical theorizing leaves much room for interpretation and debate. As with C. G. Jung’s work, some would applaud the far-reaching use of analogy while others might abhor it. Regardless of one’s take on this, it would be hard to come away from this film not feeling a little bit closer to Carroll and his amazing imaginary realm.

Just a day before watching this video, I saw the movie The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for the first time, having made a few unsuccessful attempts to read the Douglas Adams novel, for much the same reasons as Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Its seems these two great stories – the one set in Victorian England and the other in contemporary society – have something in common. Both seem silly and nonsensical but, at the same time, point to political and, especially, quantum realities that humanity will eventually have to come to grips with.

The Initiation of Alice in Wonderland: The Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll is a probing, comprehensive film that Carroll enthusiasts and interested browsers should learn much from.

—MC


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“Life of Pi” author asked to apologize for terming India “horrible”

Kolkata in the 80s by MC via Flickr

Special to Earthpages.org

Indo-Americans have asked for immediate public apology from “Life of Pi” author Yann Martel for reportedly labeling India as “a horrible place”.

Man Booker Prize winner Canadian writer Martel (Manners of Dying), who spent one year in India writing “Life of Pi”, in a recent interview to Indian media, reportedly stated, “India is a horrible place”.

“Life of Pi”, fantasy-adventure about a boy from Pondicherry (India) who survives 227 days after shipwreck, has been adopted by Oscar winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) for the big screen, which is releasing on November 21.

Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that terming such culturally, religiously and philosophically rich country like India was highly illogical and irrational.

Zed, who is Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, pointed out that one of the world’s largest economies, India gave the world four major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, ancient Indus Valley Civilization, Mahatma Gandhi, Sanskrit, Taj Mahal, yoga, oldest existing scripture Rig-Veda, etc. Where else could one find such a religiously diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society living together?

India did face issues of poverty, corruption, healthcare, literacy, etc., but such a broad generalization of a country of over 1.2 billion as “horrible” was highly disturbing for its hard-working populace, Rajan Zed argued.

Zed also hoped that Lee would handle the Pi’s spirituality exploration and holistic edge with cultural sensitivity in the upcoming movie in this India-influenced story.

Rajan Zed further said that more world filmmakers should explore many finer and deeper things India offered. Planet’s most multidimensional country, fast growing economy, emerging world power, largest democracy, etc.; India has snowcapped mountains, palm-fringed and sun-washed beaches, glorious temples, colorful festivals, rich philosophy and spirituality, abundant historical sites, wildlife safaris, recharging treks, historic trade routes, cultural wealth, etc.

Filmed in India, Canada and Taiwan, “Life of Pi” is based on awards-winning best-selling novel of the same name which is an adventure tale about 16-years old Pi Patel stranded on a lifeboat with a hyena, orangutan, an injured zebra, and a hungry Bengal tiger in Pacific Ocean on his voyage from India to Canada. Film stars newcomer Suraj Sharma as Pi, besides Filmfare Award winner Irrfan Khan (Life in a Metro) and National Award winner Tabu (Chandni Bar).

Oscar nominated M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen); and Dean Georgaris (What Happens in Vegas) reportedly dropped this project after preliminary exploration in the past. Keith Robinson adapted it into a play and toured England.


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Review – Rose (DVD)

RoseRose (2012)
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

The feature film Rose is a giant step forward for the British filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim, whose 2008 short film Rose was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The short version was a difficult but redemptive tale based on a true story. A promising film, it was well received by several charities and proactive groups. But the latest incarnation of Rose takes the story to a whole new level.

This suspenseful, sophisticated drama stars Helen Clifford as Rose who, to quote from the film, is “a worn out hooker with a habit.” An otherwise girl next door type who also starred in the previous adaptation, Clifford manages to look godawful through most of the footage (with a little help from talented makeup artists). And totally in sync with Rose‘s stepped up production values, her performance is far more powerful and nuanced than it was in 2008.

Rose falls into deep trouble when her callous pimp, Blondie, (Mike Mitchell) gets word that she’s been taking customers on the side—“freelancing.” Blondie is handsome, wears fine suits, and imports sex slaves from southeast Europe.

Mike Mitchell, who appeared in Gladiator and Braveheart, plays this creepy kingpin to a tee. As the resident crime lord and club owner in Hellville (a metaphorical underworld with a bit of a comic strip feel), Blondie is one bad dude. If anyone crosses him, chances are they’ll get a knife at their throat (or worse) within 48 hours. It’s that bad. And Rose is trapped.

Like many of the main characters in other Yildirim films, the traumatized Rose longs for release. And her angelic young daughter, Ellie, (marvelously played by Chelsea Alcock) reminds us that tenderness, beauty and hope are always possible, even amid the worst kinds of tawdriness, violence and neglect. Rose’s love relationship with Tony (Patrick Regis) also calls to mind the importance of caring. One of my favorite scenes is when the troubled Rose, Tony and Ellie are at the beach, and Ellie is entranced by the sight of a well-to-do couple and their contented child.

Tony, himself, is a favored goon and washed up boxer who fights in backrooms for the amusement of Blondie and his jaded inner circle (these scenes reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes). But Tony is an enforcer with a conscience, and doesn’t like what he sees—especially when Blondie decides to teach Rose a hard lesson for moonlighting.

Regis’ compelling performance as the tough but puppy-eyed Tony is another nice surprise in Rose. After seeing how Blondie hurts Rose and, later, getting thrashed in another backroom brawl, Tony’s not going to kiss up to Blondie any longer. And so the film heads into its gripping climax.

No review of Rose would be complete without tipping one’s hat to actors Eileen Daly (Yondra, a retired prostitute), Lucy White (Magdelena, a statuesque heavy) and Rami Hilmi (Baldo, a mindless stooge), along with several relative unknowns who add texture and intrigue to Rose’s life story.

The impressive cast is augmented by Rose‘s innovative cinematography and minimalist soundtrack. Altogether, Yildirim creates the haunting ambiance that audiences have come to expect from his movies. But this one is different. The director’s considerable talents and influences have fused into a laser-sharp focus. And it shows.

—MC


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Sci-fi, Myth and Many Possible Worlds

Dr. No and other videos by MC via Flickr

Dr. No and other videos by MC via Flickr

Science fiction is still frowned on in some literary circles but that perception is quickly changing.

Back in high school, when writing about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I still bought into the notion that sci-fi is less worthy than the so-called classics.

Luckily I had an English teacher who saw things differently.

Mr. X, as I’ll call him, was a bit of an outsider with the rest of the English department. His eclectic  interests would have him critiquing the newspaper like a university professor might or, perhaps, telling us how to get a date with an absolute stranger.

I think the principal even had some auditor sit in his class to check him out. (This was the late 70s to early 80s and my memory is a bit fuzzy). I do know that he didn’t stay at that high school very long. But in retrospect, he proved to be far more influential than most other teachers.

One day Mr. X noticed that I had a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, and I made some joke about ice-nine. We then got onto Frank Herbert’s Dune, which he handily summed up with a glint in his eye. The idea of spice mining and subterranean sand worms seemed to point to something important, something just beyond my adolescent awareness.  Later, I learned about Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, but that wasn’t until age 19, when the river of my teens began to flow into the numinous sea of adulthood.

Over the years, not all of my teachers were quite as open-minded as Mr X. Some have been quite hostile to sci-fi, as if pedantic NeoMarxism or, perhaps, esoteric Old Testament studies represented the ultimate in intellectual activity.

Ouch.

Sci-fi and I go back a long way. Childhood summers at Georgian Bay afforded endless hours to read, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. Austin Hall and Homer Eon Flint’s The Blind Spot, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and characters like Alfred Bester’s time-traveling Gully Foyle captured my imagination every bit as much as the natural beauty around me.

I still watch a little bit of sci-fi TV and movies. Admittedly, sci-fi characters can sometimes come off a bit thin. But any weak character development is usually counterbalanced by an exceedingly rich cosmology. Where else can you time travel, walk through walls, battle cybernetic stooges, talk to aliens, juggle parallel universes and throw lightning bolts from your fingertips?

In contrast, the cosmologies of many so-called literary classics pale in comparison. Mystique aside, Shakespeare’s Macbeth (“Fair is foul, and foul is fair”),† Dante’s Inferno (which sent several Popes to hell) and Spenser’s The Faerie Queene seem almost banal when compared to the far-flung worlds of sci-fi.

And more recent TV shows like the Reimagined Battlestar Galactica make it increasingly difficult to say that sci-fi lacks character development. BSG is almost entirely about character development, be it human or Cylon.

Historically, a great deal of ancient mythologies more closely resemble sci-fi than do the bulk of Middle Ages and Renaissance literature (with notable exceptions). The Hindu god Siva, for instance, emits a burning death ray from his third eye, not unlike the phaser beams of Star Trek. And classical Greek myths tell of equally formidable powers, where weapon and tool technologies like Thor’s hammer and Athena’s shield take center stage.

Granted, neoclassical artists recast ancient Greek, Roman, Hebraic and Christian themes. But I think it’s fair to say that, on the whole, they were more interested in creating detailed masterpieces instead of developing the ancient cosmologies that they drew upon.

Did ancient mythology serve a similar psychosocial need as today’s sci-fi? The scholar of religion and myth, Joseph Campbell, thought so. He notes that the box office smash Star Wars follows the mythic cycle of the hero. George Lucas (Star Wars‘ creator) actually consulted with Campbell to ensure that the movie would resonate with established mythic patterns.

However, there are obvious differences between the ancients and civilized mankind. This is especially so when we consider the social and political involvement of the average citizen. In ancient Rome, for example, not paying homage to a deity might cost you your life. And 21st century technologies combined with our increasingly sophisticated thoughts have taken today’s sci-fi narratives to a whole new level.

Sci-fi arguably has another advantage over other art forms. Its apparent distance from everyday life allows for meaningful political critiques. Here, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the hideous Borg collective of Star Trek come to mind.

For some, sci-fi might seem like so much fodder for the geek squad. But no matter how hard one tries to stick their head in the sand, movies like Star Trek, Avatar and Super 8 still gross more at the box office than other, so-called ‘cultured’ films.

So what, exactly, is this telling us?

—MC

——

The Tempest, however, reveals that Shakespeare can, in fact, deal with extremely subtle fantasy. But this isn’t surprising, considering that most consider him the best writer, ever.


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Super 8… Stupor 8?

Super 8mm film cartridge film. Kodak Eastman E...

Super 8mm film cartridge film. Kodak Eastman via Wikipedia

Yes, I saw it. And although I’m glad I did, Super 8 turned out to be a bit boring and disappointing.

The young actors were good, sometimes great (except for one who really didn’t cut it). And come to think of it, most of the adult lead actors were above average too. But oh, what cinematic cliches and obvious lead-ins to the many impending disasters.

(I’m keeping it general to avoid a spoiler).

I loved the TV show Alias. And the new Star Trek film wasn’t that bad either. But super-producer J. J. Abrams, IMHO, didn’t really come up with anything too memorable here.

The 70s scenes were unbelievable. Not good unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Sure they got the cars, clothes and hairstyles right. And that old electronic football game — I had one — looked and sounded just like the real thing. But the lingo was almost all 2011. (Also, Willow Tree figures were in the film, which weren’t around back then).

If you think I’m just being picky, well maybe I am. Or maybe this film is for the younger gen. To its credit, Super 8‘s special effects were impressive. And its treatment of young love was, well, adequate. But I found a complete lack of credibility in the plot line. I wasn’t expecting a comic book story. Had I known beforehand that all reasonable attempts to make this a convincing movie would be lacking, I might have enjoyed it more.

2½ stars outta 5.

—MC


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Hindus urge India & Tamil Nadu govts. to help preserve deteriorating temple art

A portion of a ruined Pallava palace in Kanchi...

A portion of a ruined Pallava palace in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, built around the 7th century A.D. via Wikipedia

Special to Earthpages.org

Hindus have expressed concern at the continuing deterioration of temple murals/inscriptions/carvings in Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that both India and Tamil Nadu governments should urgently come up with a joint project to preserve these priceless masterpieces of religious art for coming generations.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that these pieces of religious art, some dating back to 7th century CE in the Pallava period, were parts of our rich heritage, provide valuable insights into our past, and should be passed on to our children and grand-children intact.

Exposure to sun, vulnerability to nature, water-seepage, fungus, vandalism, smoke, and plain ignorance and carelessness, etc., had caused havoc to these valuable and important symbols of our religion/culture. It was the moral duty of state and national governments to immediate take steps to prevent further damage to our rich heritage, Rajan Zed stressed.

Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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