Not another Spy movie

I laughed. I laughed a lot. I cringed and then I laughed. I laughed because it was funny, and then there were the times I laughed because of years of conditioning that have taught me that all fat jokes are hilarious.

I like Melissa McCarthy, right from when I saw her as accident-prone Sookie on Gilmore Girls. Spy was a far better film to watch than another of McCarthy’s films,  Identity Thief. Not just because Rose Byrne was in it with her “bird arms”, at one point trying to push a gun across the floor to Susan Cooper AKA Penny Morgan, AKA Amber Valentine AKA whatever.

I like the paradigm of an inept but surprisingly awesome agent saving the day, I mean we all loved Johnny English, didn’t we? But Susan Cooper is not lucky the way Johnny English was. She is instead extremely ingenious, and has some scary-good combat skills, which we get to see in a video of one of her training exercises. “I wanted to put it up on YouTube”, says her boss, deadpan Elaine Crocker who threatens another agent if he dares to call her “Betty Crocker”.  That was one of the moments where the movie was funny without insisting on doing it at the expense of Susan.

In pursuit of someone who tried to shoot them, Cooper naturally got on a scooter, and immediately regretted it, “Who puts a roof on a scooter? What are you, the Pope?!” It made me pause the film to really get all my laughter out. The film offers plenty of these zingers, but sadly also insists on poking fun at Cooper’s clothes through other characters, mainly the villain Rayna. The upside to this is that we see how ridiculous it is to make fun of her clothes when either she has no choice about it, or because she is just dressing how other people expect her to (crazy cupcake necklace with a toggle system, seriously Agent Bradley Fine??? That’s your idea of a gift to someone you owe your life?). The many sides to Susan Cooper are probably better represented than a lot of women usually get in movies, from her sarcasm to intelligence to scary meanness to sweetness and fainting/vomiting at the sight of some gory things.

It was a chance to laugh, and a great one at that. It will probably be funny and entertaining for at least a few repeat viewings, which can’t be said for a lot of movies. Even though I objected to parts of it, I can’t deny the appeal of a comedy spy movie like it. Without films like it, our lives would be a lot more serious. Who wants that?

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Ghosts at their screens

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The glow of a screen,

The apparition stares.

Words appear sporadically;

raindrops  just as it begins to rain:

Drip drop, plip plop.

Sentences form themselves.

It is now over,

Time to sleep.

So what if I AM Sadness?

“Sadness, sadness, look here. You’re totally sadness.” I look up briefly, giving him my most supremely irritated look, the one reserved for annoying siblings. He kept insisting as I watched the film, It’s you, it’s you.

With every passing moment, I denied this. I am not always sad, I have other emotions, I don’t only sit around in some kind of existentialist funk. (Granted, I do get that way sometimes. ) With the idea of myself as “Sadness” reinforced constantly, it kept me from enjoying the movie as much. And isn’t that a huge problem? Other people labeling us makes us so aware of what we are and aren’t that we stop enjoying things, and it sucks.

Inside Out had been out for a while, I just hadn’t got around to watching it until this weekend. I wanted to watch it. I was really excited after watching the trailer, but somehow that feeling fizzled out as I heard more about it. I knew that it was bound to be disappointing in some way. It didn’t help that my brother had already watched it and any reference to it ended with my grumpy face and his smug irritating expression out in full force.

It was just a film, but it took on this massive topic, EMOTIONS, and the  emotions of a tween, can you imagine? It was a task not many people could have taken on, but those little animated figures worked really hard to make it seem real and yet fun. It was an interesting film, sort of like Osmosis Jones, but quite naturally, centered in this decade. With its basis in the human mind, Inside Out wasn’t like any other animated film I’ve seen.

Though it was definitely a children’s film, it was so popular among adults. From the feed of a psychiatrist I know, to an  uncle somewhere in my family tree, Facebook posts popped up for a couple of weeks after it came out here. It was not a phenomena, certainly not the way Frozen was, and it seems to have gone to the place where a lot of animated movies go. That list of movies teachers find appropriate for 9-year-olds, but interesting enough to show 13-year-olds as well.

I don’t know why this happens. Why don’t we ever want to re-watch these animated films the same way we do some dabba action film? There are exceptions of course, the Despicable Mes, the Kung Fu Pandas, and a couple of others that seem to have escaped the watch-once-and-don’t-repeat instructions.

Maybe it has to do with labels too, we don’t want to be outside of the popular culture of our age-group. Watching these films once is acceptable, but loving them as much as The Avengers is just not done. Or are we just too old to enjoy a bright bubbly world, Imagination Land and Bing-Bong’s song? Seems unlikely.

A Feast For The Eyes

What I usually notice when I enter a restaurant is the whoosh of the AC as I walk in from the heat outside. At Sodabottleopenerwala that isn’t even an option; the fabulous décor is the first thing you notice, right from when you spot it on Lavelle Road. After seeing that almost every other establishment on the road includes ‘Lavelle’ in its name, SBOW was a bit of a shock. The bright red-checkered-table-cloth-type signboard is unmissable and as you walk under it into the restaurant, there are unique boards (including a family tree with George V and Mary) that you must crane your head painfully to read. Just at the entrance and I had already seen the giant bottle opener (unusable), the mini-blue scooter and a table with an old-tap feel.

I was not prepared for the level of energy I experienced as I walked into this new restaurant with the oldies theme. The music was just audible above the lunch time crowd. With a first come first served policy, the place was packed, and navigating through the tables to wait for one at the bar was a good chance to take in the food that everyone was having. Served in tiffins, dabbas and other dull aluminum dishes, the food looked very homey. Drinks of every kind and colour floated by on the trays that the efficient staff whisked around the large room.

The food presentation vied for attention as I stared at the walls, the tables, the bar and the train tracks that are suspended above the diners. The tracks and the tiny train on it were probably the most memorable part of my visit. There were a few quirky tables, covered with the distinctive bright red-checkered table cloths, like one which seemed to be based on part of an old bicycle. An abacus, innumerable mirrors and portrait photographs covered most of the walls. The wall dedicated to bottles with light shining above formed a beautiful backdrop to the train as it wound its way around the room and the songs changed from old Bollywood numbers to English ones seamlessly. The crowd at the restaurant reflects the kind of people it draws—from a few children to many older people, the place seems to be one that every visitor enjoys for one reason or another. A sports channel on TV, the range of the music, and the mixture of bakery, bar and restaurant draw most of the people who fill up the place.

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On her second visit to SBOW, Radhika Rajagopal told me, “I love the décor, and the berry pulao which I had today.” It was my first visit to a restaurant that is all about Parsi and Iranian style food. I was excited to try the Chicken Farcha, which is Parsi style fried chicken, and the Mawa cake. The chicken came in something I can only describe as reminiscent of a bread tray, with a little bowl of the most amazing green chutney. The pudina was a great combination with the meat. With dishes like Eggs Kejriwal (which my friend ordered), Aloo Aunty’s Vegetable Cutlet, Tardeo AC Market Mamaji’s Grill Sandwich and Breach Candy Awesome Okra, the names were certainly interesting, and reading the menu thoroughly was a fun activity. Sadly the Mawa cake wasn’t available, so I chose the apple pie and custard. The custard did what the green chutney did with the chicken, it made the apple pie just right.  The meal was not all I had expected it to be, considering the excitement with which people talked about it. My friend kept saying, “Maybe we ordered the wrong things,” but that isn’t what every person who eats in a restaurant should have to think of before ordering.

One person at a neighbouring table had brought his guests from Pakistan to check out SBOW, a place that many people associate with memories of their pasts. As a frequent customer, Anwar Ahmad said he really likes the place and the Parsi items on the menu, and was busy pointing out the different artistic things to his guests; things that one simply must see on a visit to SBOW. From the train, to the faded bakery advertisements on the walls, to the photographs on the bathroom door to indicate who should use them, they all add to the charm that is inherent in the place.

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Once again the walls caught my interest. We realized the orange walls camouflage one of the ACs and in our minds greatly resembled a razor, with the silver slats contrasting against the orange. Staring at the bakery and the baking done behind the glass window was an interesting thing to do. It was an alternate focus to the cute counter with jars of sweets and other goodies right by the door. The things that really define the SBOW establishment, in Bengaluru and other cities are picked by the chain.

Jokes pop up at you from every part of the SBOW experience-from the menu to the posters and the cover that the bill came in. The one on the cover showed instructions for the bill with a person taking out their wallet and counting out some money, and then even more to pay the bill. A spot-on joke, with the food being ridiculously expensive for a college student budget. But this was belied by the number of young people and huge gangs who were adding to the bustle of the place during the time I was there. For Manveen Gill and Viji Sethu, SBOW brings back their own younger days in Bombay. Viji laughingly recalled the days when a cup of Iranian chai and vada pav together cost 40 paise. The meal she just finished consisting of chai and vada pav definitely cost more, but she remarked that for ambiance like SBOW’s, that’s what you would expect.

The nostalgia most people seem to feel is not for days in this city, but places like Bombay and Delhi, which is what the restaurant is centered on. Even I felt nostalgic with Aicha playing, the serving dishes like the baking trays we used when I was a kid, and slightly faded black and white portraits which remind me of the ones at my grandparents’ home. Somehow, they capture home at SBOW, while remaining sophisticated and interesting.

Open Dosa reporter on SBOpenerwala

                              The stunning wall makes the perfect backdrop to the tiny train

Check out my new piece “A feast for the eyes” on SodaBottleOpenerWala, only at The Open Dosa! With all the pictures to prove it.

It was a piece put together over a meal and hours of staring at the walls of the restaurant instead of my food. I think capturing an experience is a tough enterprise, when there’s so much to include and exclude. I’m hoping I got my readers to see the place through my eyes for at least a little while, whatever their own opinions might be.

It’s up on my blog as of July at https://sarcypavi.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/a-feast-for-the-eyes/

Or you can find it at :

http://www.opendosa.in/?p=735

“Let’s just say he’s creepy. When he starts singing, it’s like every child molester come to the big screen in the form of a very strangely dressed individual. But when he talks about grandma’s brittle bones, somehow I felt less disgusted.”

That’s what I first thought about the character Mr. Wolf from Into the Woods, and to make a caricature wasn’t too hard. It goes something along the lines of:

A pretentious phony with a pointy head. His head is shaped like a slice of cheese, the stinky kind that has mould all over it. His head is topped by a hat which has fake ears. It is ridiculous, he looks like a chicken in wolf’s clothing. He almost looks like without the hat, you can see a beak on his face. The obviously fake whiskers only make him look like a porcupine Halloween costume exploded in his face and the needles just won’t budge. Need I go on?

The clothes he wears speak of more pretentiousness, we all know he’s not really a wolf. What’s he trying to prove? As long as he’s got that ridiculous suit on, he will just be that car salesman in my mind. Though he looks nothing like Matilda’s disgusting father that’s what I associate him with. He is shifty. He cannot be trusted, especially with girls like Red Rising Hood, who sing of following rules and then decide two minutes later the rules keep them from the flowers. His fake ears perk up, he smells fresh blood in Red, she’s just the perfect meal for a wolf, even a fake one. His claws are just filthy from all his visits to the bushes, and having him anywhere near is a odorous nightmare.

He’s the person, sorry wolf, you cross the street to avoid, the one who stares and licks his lips in disgusting hunger. His song is enough to arouse all the other murderous sociopaths out there. As he sneaks along, it’s a poor imitation of lovable Wily Coyote, and you wish he would fall off a cliff instead.

And then, I realized I was writing about a person I know, a person I dislike very strongly, okay, I’ll admit I meant hate.  

The longest synopsis ever: Into the Woods for 2350 words

I am always open to watching musicals filled with perfectly produced songs, though they do tend to get a little long. I was terribly excited for the film after watching the trailer.  With so many actors I admire,  I was sure it would be a blast. Of course I mean the good kind, not the boom kind.

Let me begin at the beginning with the narrator. Ah, the narrator, the cornerstone of every film that just couldn’t manage to tell a story without the help of an omnipotent voice guiding the audience through scenes.

Right from the “Once upon a time….”, the characters we are introduced to are from stories we’ve all heard a thousand times. Naturally, Cinderella gets the ball rolling (pun intended) and then we see little Jack, who is convinced his cow is male, and whose mum keeps smacking him on the head after looking at him affectionately. That really makes you wonder about the whole “mommy hits me ’cause she loves me” fallacy.

As you go through the first five minutes of the film, Anna Kendrick’s blatantly American accent begs the question, this far off kingdom, in a village on the edge of the woods, is that a joke about  America: the colony? Seems too unlikely, so let’s move on. There’s the childless couple (the baker and his wife), who are really taken advantage of by Little Red Riding Hood who comes to stock up on food for Granny. She seems to eat through a lot of their inventory, and Emily Blunt just offers her more cookies, and naturally, a basket to carry them.

Jack is off to the market to sell Milky White, with more admonishments from his mom. She notices the birds flying toward the angelic call of Cinderella’s desperate song. Cindy wants help finishing her unending and ridiculous chores, because her parents taught her to be “nice”, “kind”, etc., read as PUSHOVER. After getting bitch-slapped, literally, she falls to the floor, while her evil stepsisters cackle.

“It’s the witch from next door”, possibly my favourite line from the movie.  Followed by the entrance of her lifetime, Meryl Streep, AKA the Devil (from the movie, not reality) speaks the lines that make the movie, “It’s not what I wish, it’s what you wish”. A long convoluted explanation for the baker’s impotence reveals the witch is also Rumplestiltskin-y; she took his new-born sister away how-many-ever-years ago!

The baker’s father was an all-out horrible person, he stole not only loads of greens from the witch’s garden for his pregnant wife, he also stole the magic beans! This caused something terrible to happen to the witch: she lost her youth and beauty. The witch has some wonderful rhyming lines to impart her advice to the couple, as well as her conditions to remove her curse from them.

Everyone has a reason to go into the woods, for a baby, for money, to get to the king’s festival, and to visit grandma. Everything will be accomplished before dark, that’s the optimistic Disney voice breaking through.

Cindy gets her wish for an awesome dress to go to the festival in, courtesy of the willow tree she had watered for years with her tears, location: beside her mother’s grave. Her magical make-over includes a pair of heels/slippers as pure as gold.

The narrator catches us up on how Red seems to have wandered into an unfamiliar area of the woods. Mr. Wolf is Johnny Depp in a strange amalgamation of all the roles I’ve ever seen him in. Let’s just say he’s creepy. When he starts singing, it’s like every child molester come to the big screen in the form of a very strangely dressed individual. But when he talks about grandma’s brittle bones, somehow I felt less disgusted.

The witch’s purpose in choosing the slightly daft baker becomes clear when she reveals she cannot touch any of the objects she needs for her plan. He is hesitant to steal a kid’s cloak, how nice to see he has better morals than his dad who deserted him as a child. Despite possessing morals, the baker’s wife is quite possibly the only interesting/good thing about him.

This movie really reminded me why I hate Red Riding Hood. From her ear-piercing shriek when the baker tried to steal her cloak, to the way she has no intuition about the wolf, she is Annoying. In a Disney twist, the baker cut through the wolf’s stomach and let both red and her grandma out. Blood-thirsty grandma wanted help skinning the wolf, but the baker had places to be. The scene after that was more than a little disturbing, with Red describing her attraction to the wolf (Even Disney couldn’t avoid 50 shades!).  The wolf’s stomach strongly resembled a cloth bazaar, with the stomach lining more like lining for a pretty purple dress.

On the plus side, Red gives the baker her cloak for cutting through the wolf’s cloth stomach and getting them out. We have the ever-helpful voice over telling us about how Cindy ran away from the first night of the king’s festival after dancing with the prince. His villain-style proclamation as she runs (for her life?), “I must find that girl”, strikes fear in my heart.

More singing, with Cindy explaining to the baker’s wife why Prince Charming just isn’t what she expected. The cow runs off just when Blunt notices the “slipper” on Cindy’s foot is fancy and pure as gold. She runs after the cow, and apparently spends the night chasing it without any luck.  She meets up with her husband after he has been tossed huge cold coins that Jack stole from the giants home in the sky. Jack really loves the cow he was forced to sell and wants him her back.

Meanwhile, the prince who spies on Rapunzel and her “Mother”, the witch, runs into his brother(king’s heir) who is searching for Cindy.  The pissing match in song is no better than a regular one, as they fight it out to see who has the better unattainable crush. The heir gets to see Cindy again at the second night of the festival, she went back.  She is running away once when the nameless baker’s wife is coincidentally also running close by after she tricked Rapunzel and cut off a pretty long portion of her corn-yellow hair. Blunt nearly got the golden slipper, but Cindy is no longer a pushover, and she grabs it back from the desperate woman on the ground. Irony, anyone?

Blunt holds onto her Rapunzel hair scarf in awe as she hears Chris Pine’s say in a very deep voice, “The woods can be a dangerous place”. That gem comes from the heir as he pauses in his pursuit of Cindy to question Blunt about who the heck Cindy is. Way-to-state-the-obvious, ha? Everyone knows the woods are dangerous, even oblivious little Red and that’s why they HAD to make a movie about it.

The most amazing thing in the entire film happens just as the baker sits down in defeat because he really isn’t a very capable person, and shouldn’t have tried to send his wife back to the village, assuring her he could do it all himself. He sits down only to be lifted up as Milky White gets up. He sat on the cow and then falls to the ground for the second time in less than a minute!

Brief pause for another unintentionally epic statement from the baker, “Perhaps it’ll take two of us to have this child”.

The scene reuniting the baker and Blunt was a blur, the only thing I could see was the way Rapunzel’s braid was waved around and played tug-o-war with, before being tossed aside. Their hopefulness is totally ruined as Jack comes back with a golden egg to buy back his best bud. As they argue, and Blunt is horrified with her husband for taking money from a child, someone large, white and on the brink of death for the past hour, bites the dust.

Wearing the scarf, the baker is about to leave Blunt to find and buy another cow the next morning when Jack cuts down the beanstalk and something resembling an earth quake shakes the kingdom as the giant man falls down to earth and dies. That night, Cindy flees from the prince again. How has she been faster than a guy on a horse, especially since she has never worn heels before, and these seem pretty damn high. The sticky pitch on the stairs stops Cindy in her tracks this time, and time stops as she debates her options. Insecurities and indecision abound in her song, but after singing it through, she decides to leave behind a shoe and see what the prince does.

He watches her run off, since she has such speed in her extremely trip-worthy dress and with one heel on. As the prince pursues with his plan to test her shoe on every maiden in the village, he once again encounters blunt and lets her keep the shoe she bargained for and traded with Cindy. The callous toss from Cindy’s hand landed the last of six magic beans in the soil and started to grow but there was no one to see.

In classic Grimm’s fairy tale style, the stepmother cut her daughters’ feet to fit the shoe, but her plan failed as the peon noticed the blood dripping from the slipper and the other daughter fainted post losing part of her foot.

Ugh, snakes, that’s all there is to think about Rapunzel’s new home in a swamp. Did they really need to show us snakes to prove it is a horrible place? Definitely going to have nightmares, thanks Disney. The film becomes increasingly dark, as Rapunzel’s prince is revealed to be blind after the witch caught him and Rap in the tower and he fell into a wall of thorns and she was sent to my own personal hell sans her ridiculously long messy braid. That short minute of immense darkness is destroyed when the snakes don’t actually do anything to her, even though she probably stepped on a couple in her rush to get to the prince, and then her tears heal his eyes.

The intense scene with the resurrected cow really builds, as the devil witch imbibes the cow’s milk magic potion. There is an immaculate conception during the witch’s transformation, which leaves baker and wife very happy.

Everyone is happy, the movie can end now. But wait, there’s still that pesky second beanstalk that Cindy accidentally created. Havoc ensues and the film takes an unexpected turn in the form of the dead giant’s wife coming down the new stalk to find Jack. Oops. Though she looks fancy in her cool new dress and younger person skin, complete with shocking blue eye shadow, the witch has lost her magic as well as the trust of Rap, who sees her mother as a monster now.

The baker and wife are left searching the forest with Red, yelling Jack futilely. Too bad his name wasn’t Marco. They split up to find Jack faster, and leave their newborn with Red. I’m not touching that idea with a pole, it stinks so much. Blunt heads into one part of the forest and has an impromptu make-out session with the Prince, who is supposed to be slaying the giant, as per every fairytale, ever, or at least making friends with her to convince her to leave peacefully. Instead, he convinces the “peasant” to abandon monogamy in a time when they might be crushed. The baker finds the princess/Cindy at her mother’s grave, and their incredibly awkward conversation ends with her accompanying him back to his wife. Said wife is still making out with the prince, but he’s got to go slay the giant. She has a moral crisis which is resolved mostly by blaming it on the woods, but it really doesn’t matter since she is soon facing the repercussions of the earth-quake inducing movements of the giant. She falls off a cliff. This feels wrong, like she was punished for her moments of adultery. Not cool, Disney.

A beautifully crafted blame game ensues between the baker, Jack, Red, Cindy and the witch. She takes responsibility for it all, but wants to take Jack to the giant. She calls them “Nice, not good or bad, just nice” and herself “right”. Her fear of doom has her throwing away all she has left, some magic beans, and they fall all over the place with the “nice” group scrambling after them. Thunder, lightning, the whole shebang, and then she disappears into the ground.

The baker ditches his baby with Cindy, and wanders into darker parts of the woods. Deserting his kid like his dad leaves him hallucinating and he comes back after a good cry. Let’s use Jack as bait to get the giant stuck in the tiny mud pit where the witch was absorbed into the earth. Their hail Mary plan relies partially on the birds Cindy talks to. A little bird also told her that the prince had been straying.  When she sees him, he explains this like a true prince, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere”. They break up, no one really cares.

The plan works, the giant is killed. The remaining people are going to live together, since their family members are dead or missing. My favourite characters died, I hate this movie now. It took them two hours to try to prove you need to be careful what you wish for. I learned that lesson, after I started watching the movie I had been hoping to watch for so long.

I don’t regret the time I spent watching it. The songs were amazing, and Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt were fabulous. If anyone is interested, it actually passes the Bechdel test, there were quite a few of moments of singing between women, that were not about men. None of the characters really had names except Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack, so I think that category is definitely passed.