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I have accepted it; despite the best of intentions, I’m not going to end up typing up my notes from my holiday (see post below Bastardino). There’s too much. It’s going to take forever. I’ve barely acclimatised myself to the blahness of Mumbai; if I revisit the holiday, I’m going to crash back into depression so really, it’s self-preservation. And I’m lazy. Bottom line: detailed posts on each of the things listed earlier ain’t happening.

I’ve realised that whenever I take a stern, staunch decision to do something, there is no way in hell that I’ll actually end up doing it. On the other hand, if I’ve resigned myself to not doing something, I invariably end up doing it. So, if you think about it, this could be me trying to trump myself with reverse psychology.

Or it could be me being realistic.

The NaNoWriMo shield

In case it is me being realistic, I’m going to do a quick digest and so rid me of the guilt of not writing up my notes as well as free myself up for November. What’s happening in November? Well, it’s “season” in Mumbai’s cultural sphere, which means a high possibility of rants in the near future. Plus I have landed a part-time job (yay!) so that’s going to swallow a chunk of the day. Also, I have decided to gird my loins and plunge into NaNoWriMo, partly because I really like their shield and because there’s so much deja vu happening from years past, I thought I might as well consciously revisit something I’ve done before. My first and last attempt at NaNoWriMo was six or seven years ago. Not only was it good fun, it was also educational. The exercise teaches you about discipline and consistency because you have to pace yourself and be aware of structure. The goal is to write 1,667 words, day in and day out, throughout the 30 days of November. The words you write also have to add up to something that will reach the “The End” point at the end of the month. I managed neither when I launched into NaNoWriMo the last time. There were days when I wrote 4,000 words and then wrote nothing for days. The story I began didn’t get completed. In short, it was utter tosh. Let’s see how I well I do this time.

But that’s in a few days. For now, here’s the digest.

Movies

The Skin I Live In: Loved it, even though it is far from a perfect film. Once you leave the theatre and think about it, there’s a lot that doesn’t really add up, even in the cuckoo bizarredom that is reality as imagined by Pedro Almodovar. But it is riveting, poetic, brutal and very, very disturbing. It’s also the first time I found Antonio Banderas attractive. Ok, so he looked like he’d spent the summer in Snooki‘s favourite tanning salon, but aside from that detail, I quite liked the menace in his body language and face.

Page One: Inside the New York Times: The documentary focuses on the newspaper’s media desk and attempts to show how The New York Times is holding its own in the world of news media today, warding off the Internet threat and winning against the Internet by taking old fashioned reporting seriously. Ex-junkie and current media and culture columnist David Carr, with his unshakeable beliefs and bulldog-esque demeanour, is a delight. The documentary is full of hope for the newspaper but I have to admit that the reality of The New York Times is a little disappointing. It was miserably sluggish in its reportage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and I’ve long had issues with its India coverage, which recently hit a new low. It had an article about why Mukesh Ambani has not shifted into extravagant new home, Antilla. The idiotic idle party chatter of Mumbai made it into The New York Times, thus shrinking the gap between that publication and Bombay Times (technically, a supplement focussed on celebrity and gossip). Sheesh. And I don’t have time to get into the disappointment that is India Ink,  The New York Times’s India blog.

Coriolanus: I honestly didn’t give a damn about Ralph Fiennes’s directorial debut. The only reason I bought tickets was that Anthony Lane was going to conduct the Q & A with Fiennes after the screening. However, it wasn’t bad. The play has been edited very smartly and some of the acting performances — Vanessa Redgrave in particular — are stellar. Fiennes is good and slightly over-the-top as Coriolanus. Jessica Chastain is wasted. Gerard Butler, shock of all shocks, can act; sort of. The film is shot in Serbia, which is quite a poignant twist of circumstances. It’s not a brilliant film but it is certainly competent, especially for a first time director.

Moneyball: Jonah Hill is just brilliant in this film. Unfortunately, he’s the only thing that is that good in “Moneyball”. Considering the fact that I stayed awake through a film about something I hate (maths) and a sport I don’t know, it’s probably a good film. Not really the most moving of films but it’s easy enjoyment. A bit unnerving how Brad Pitt is growing up to look like Robert Redford.

A Dangerous Method: Viggo Mortensen, sigh. Such a lovely, delicious man. Thanks to him as Freud, I’m feeling partial towards beards now. Sigh. Ok, hormone off; brain on. David Cronenberg knows how to keep you interested in the story he’s telling but ultimately, the problem with “A Dangerous Method” is that it’s made up of two fascinating stories, neither of which is actually told or explored properly. Mortensen and Keira Knightley are very good though. Michael Fassbinder, in comparison, gave a thoroughly lazy performance.

The Kid With a Bike: An utterly beautiful story. Fantastic performances, tight script, excellent pacing, gorgeous use of music and a brilliant mix of heartbreak and hope. I loved this film and the Dardennes brothers are delightful.

Melancholia: Both Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier indulged in some wide-eyed wonderment at astronomical imagery but Malick succeeded in making better film. “Melancholia” has some outstanding cinematography but despite all that beauty, I left a film about the end of the world giggling with hysterical laughter because von Trier’s worldview verges on ridiculous. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst were good, Kiefer Sutherland was solid and von Trier could do with a few lessons from Roland Emmerich on how to make disasters feel, well, disastrous.

Exhibitions

Postmodernism: The V & A are so, so good at putting up a show, and “Postmodernism” is a great example of their ability to curate an exhibition. That said, the works in the show mostly left me cold. The music and fashion sections in particular felt very forced. Some of the art and design were interesting.

Charles Dickens at 200: A very engaging look at Dickens’s life and his working habits. We all know Dickens has legendary status in English literature but I didn’t realise just how much of a superstar he was in his own lifetime. There were fascinating details about his life, including cartoons about him — loved a New Yorker cartoon from way back that shows an editor saying to Dickens, “Mr. Dickens, do decide. Was it the best of times or the worst of times? It can’t possibly be both.” — and little bits of trivia, like the fake book titles that he had made for his home library. Dickens’s discipline and commitment to writing left me all pumped up to go back to the flat and write a novel right away. Like, right NOW. Of course what I actually did was sit down for an enormous Vietnamese meal.

Willem de Kooning Retrospective: I must confess, I’m not a mad fan of de Kooning and the MoMA’s retrospective didn’t turn me into one. However, it was a beautifully curated show and I do appreciate the sophistication and rigour of de Kooning’s artistic practice. There was such meticulous planning in the canvases, from the direction of the drips, the precise colours used to the layers that were revealed. However, for me there wasn’t any sense of an emotional connection to the bulk of the works.

Talk to Me: The show was about interactive design and it was fabulous. From whacky creations to art pieces to utilitarian products that are in regular use, this was a joy to walk through. There are such wonderfully cuckoo people in this world, god bless ’em. Interactivity is a way more complex thing than I’d imagined it could be. Amazing, fascinating stuff.

Sum of Days: Carlito Carvalhosa’s installation at the MoMA is a little bit like getting lost in gigantic, billowing laundry. It’s not a brilliant example of a minimalist installation but walking through a maze-like spiral of sheer, white fabric is a lovely, dreamy experience.

Gerhard Richter Retrospective: Again, like with de Kooning, I’m not a gushing fan of much of Richter’s work but there were some works in the exhibition that were absolutely brilliant. The presentation was straightforward but with some very clever placements and juxtapositions. I think what was most powerful for me was to see how Richter was able to contain explosive narratives in works that seem deceptively bland, like the ones showing the Baader-Meinhoff members. There’s so much violence in many of those seemingly flat paintings that had photographs as starting points. Unlike de Kooning, Richter for me is able to reach a viewer’s at an emotional level, flick on a switch of feeling in our heads.

Creature: So. Much. Fun. Haim Steinbach turns toys and kitsch into something simultaneously cute, funny, satirical and chilling. Charming little show.

Celebrity Tags

The National: Absofuckinglutely wonderful.

Owen Wilson: Cute, nose doesn’t seem quite so wonky in person, nervous, funny.

Wes Anderson: Funny, charming, possibly the only person who can make a blue velvety suit look normal.

David Cronenberg: Smart, witty.

Michael Fassbender: Hot, fool.

Anthony Lane: God.

Ralph Fiennes: Balding, super serious, wonderful reciter of poetry (heard him read T.S. Eliot).

Ben Kingsley: Funny, first cousin of Onida devil.

There. Done.

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9 thoughts on “Admission of Failure

  1. whoa, NaNoWriMo again??? 😀 i am so looking forward to your rants about it once you are right in the middle of it 😀 certainlgy brings a load of memories.

    love the digest, and have to agree with Tin roof Press – how did you manage all that?

    “Michael Fassbinder: Hot, fool.” ROFLMAO

  2. I did much more than this (the stand up comedy, theatre, general eats, Frieze Art Fair etc. are all missing) but I needed to finish writing the summary quickly so that I could go and watch the last episode of The Hour, which is a super tv series. And there are words missing up there that I should insert. Must read post before posting. Urck.

    Mackie, I’m a brave woman, what can I say…

  3. Re: Melancholia – For me the film was never about the end of the world. It was about the inner workings of a depressed soul and in that sense I was blown away with Von Triers depiction of despondancy and how, when it came to that apocalyptic moment, it was the seemingly dysfunctional Dunst character that held her shit together and seemed to be at peace.

    • Hey Purnima, to me, the whole notion of the madman/fool who is the one that actually sees is one that verges on hackneyed because of how often we’ve seen it (everyone, from Shakespeare to Martin McDonagh has written a character like that) and von Trier just didn’t bring any novelty to it. Also, there’s an inherent misogyny to the way Dunst and Gainsbourg’s characters are written, especially when you consider their male foils. There are hordes of examples of feminine despondency; one that comes to mind immediately is The Hours, both in terms of story as well as the cinema. Melancholia didn’t scratch beyond the cliché for me.

      The reason I mentioned Malick is that The Tree of Life is, to my mind, a great example of a poetic film that is built upon an implacable reality. Melancholia, on the other hand, was neither realistic enough nor poetic enough. It just reeked of indulgence. To me, that is.

      But thank you for writing.

      • Hmmmm….I respect that…specially since you mentioned The Hours, which is one of my favourite films 😀
        I also forgot to add earlier that I love reading your reviews because even if I disagree, I learn something new. IMHO, you’re not one of those blistering, angry reviewers and you treat the works with respect – that’s rare nowadays.

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