Friday, May 25, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean - At world's WTF


The Merchants of Cool know that pirates and ninjas can be always counted upon to get the box office counters ringing, even in today's world of large scale internet piracy and Chinese DVDs.
Both these mythologies are as inherently profitable, like devotional music by Gulshan Kumar, or late night Home Shopping TV slots for ab-isolators and sauna belts.

It's good business - Once you trap a large enough captive audience, all you have to do is figure out how much it is going to cost you to draw in an audience, how much money you're gonna be able to fuck them out of, then leverage your marketing dollar to deliver the best possible profit ratio.

Even before these movies are actually watched by the audience, they are tested on focus groups, filled in with globalized contrivances - like Chow Yun Fat's utterly meaningless cameo. The only reason he was cast in the movie was the producers knew the movie would do better in Asia if it had an Asian element. PoTC is so brilliantly centrist in this regard. The meeting of the 9 pirate lords was a plot concocted to please the target market, the philosophy of inclusion followed by politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

I don't know who shafted this movie so badly: Did the managers of their theme parks request Calypso's climax to be nullified, so that it would make for a better theme park ride? (A gigantic, half naked Tia Dalma wouldn't be very PG). The final cut of PoTC is has to be pragmatically crafted, balanced against the vicissitudes of video game producers, merchandisers, theme park rides, celebrity egos, and MPAA ratings.

What I found particularly ironic, was this scene in which the scene in which the 9 pirate lords follow Kiera Knightly's clarion call (what's with women delivering long sermons? Even 300 had a hackneyed female plot thrown in that was nowhere in the comic book graphic novel) and raise their Pirate flags in unison prior to a showdown against Lord Cutler Beckett's naval armada. Here's Disney, a major motion picture distributor celebrating piracy, while simultaneously clamping down on illegal filesharing, lobbying for DRM on consumer hardware, arresting individuals who videotape movies in theaters, etc.

But the ultimate sin of this movie is that it gets self referential. Yes, fans of the franchise know that Jack Sparrow was modeled on Keith Richards. This is Keith Richards.

And this is Keith Richards with Johnny Depp, on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Here's what Rolling Stone has to say about the movie:

" The good news first: Keith Richards totally rocks it playing pirate daddy to Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow. The deep rumble of his voice and those hooded eyes that narrowly open like the creaky gates of hell make him what the rest of this three-peat is not: authentically scary. It's fun to see Richards swagger, even sitting down. Watch him stage a macabre reunion for Jack and his dear old mum. Don't worry, I won't reveal her secret."

And that's the first paragraph.

Everyone who's gonna pan this movie is going to say the same thing: that the plot is more twisted than a coaxial cable, with too much time given to characters plotting, scheming, and then explaining their schemes to each other.

I'm going to pan the movie in the hopes that Disney will let this franchise die. Sweet merciful Christ, kill this franchise and deliver it from our collective consciousness. The worst outcome of all this would be if the series evolved some kind of Star Wars like mega franchise that spans three decades.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

2001: A Cyberspace Odyssey - Snoop dogg Version

Just found Gizoogle, which is ultra awesome! Did some translating for me. Lemme lay this one down for you.

"The future is already hizzy. It's jizzy not widely distributed yet. " - William Gibson.

Gibson's article `bout Tokyois gang bangin' it's tha city thugz look up ta W-H-to-tha-izzen they try ta envision tha future. The future, if you go by his world view, tizzle all culture is a product of technology fo shizzle.

In 2001, I'd managed ta rap me into a job at Computa Gam'n World India. I was going ta be paid fo` mobbin' n dippin' games cuz its a G thang. It thought it would be one of those dream jobs now pass the glock Anotha dogg house production.: wine tasta, pizzle star, sum-m sum-m like tizzy spittin' that real shit. Ridin' passion into a profession worked fo` Jeremy Clarksen, I figured.

It quickly dawned on me tizzle priznint magazizzles is no fizzun, especially when they gots no gang bangin' money, but I stizzuck around fo` one reason fo' real: broadband.

In 2001, JDM, tha company I was blingin' fo` was a 300 strong IT media company wit dizzy T1 lines. I'd say `bout 270 of T-H-to-tha-izzem were mostly email & S-to-tha-izzurf type guys. Broadband jizzy meant rappa email fo` thizzay so i can get mah pimp on. And tizzy there was us, tha alpha geeks. We were kids, most of us, n tha internet was our playground. We were all tuned into everyth'n tha undernet could offa�: Killa MIRC, FTP playa games, software... we hoarded everyth'n�. Wizzle we ran out of hard drive space, we'd put some data on tha copyedizzles machine wit da big Bo$ Dogg. And then some on some drug deala machine, n so on. We didn't S-T-to-tha-izzop until tha CEO started crack'n diznown on us crazy up in here.

I shot calla tha F-to-tha-izzirst time I saw a DVD rip, it was a rip of X-Men. Our jaws dropped if you gots a paper stack. In less than three months, we had over a hundred movies. We wizzle resourcizzles . know what im sayin?.

Everyone had they own specialty: one homey collected ROMS n ebooks. One homey had all tha games scoped out now motherfuckers lemme here ya say hoe. One homey took care of tha movies n software fo' sheezy. And then there were some who had a prodigious appetite, who had scoped out ho-slappin'. And had extra hardware ta back it up.

We stayed in late nights, ho-slappin' in this 411 that came straight out of a firehose. We shared gangsta biznurnt CDs, painstizzles one every 20 minutes. Hatin' this 411 out of tha office ya dig?: it was a pain . Hollaz to the East Side. We used ta come dur'n weekends ta git it out. We really cherished these bits.

I don't know how all tizzy 411 empowered or changed us, but I can speak fo` myself.

It's like we I from tha future. There's a big ego tizzle in being a distro cuz its a pimp thang. Information thizzay I shared would then go through ten loops, n tizzy be thrown bizzack at me, a few months lata�. " Hey, hizzle you seen this?" n then I'd say, " Yeah yeah, of course I hizzy. Months ago. "

How we would hoard data. If only we kizzle how useless it would become wit time.

Cruisin' of useless, a nigga of mine, who shiznall not be named (coz this is an article `bout warez) worked at a cybercafe as some kind of sysadmin in tha pre-2000 era. Of tha 256k bandwidth, he hogged 70% of tha bandwidth. While tha cybercafe crazy ass nigga barked at tha ISP fo` tha slow speeds, this nigga of mizzy worked like an ant, cruisin' a gigantic collection of P-to-tha-izzorn . Listen to how a motherfucker flow shit. He R-to-tha-izzight click n saved, one afta anotha, image afta image . Bow wow wow yippee yo yipee yay. Everyth'n meticulously sorted n categorized in folda�. 600 MB of it.

Three CDs.

We were dedicated.

Trippin' have changed now. Technology has made obsessive collectors of us all.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2001: A Cyberspace Odyssey

"The future is already here. It's just not widely distributed yet." - William Gibson.

Gibson's article about Tokyo is interesting, it's the city people look up to when they try to envision the future. The future, if you go by his world view, that all culture is a product of technology.

In 2001, I'd managed to talk myself into a job at Computer Gaming World India. I was going to be paid for reviewing and playing games. It thought it would be one of those dream jobs: wine taster, porn star, something like that. Turning passion into a profession worked for Jeremy Clarksen, I figured.

It quickly dawned on me that print magazines are no fun, especially when they got no advertising money, but I stuck around for one reason: broadband.

In 2001, JDM, the company I was working for was a 300 strong IT media company with dual T1 lines. I'd say about 270 of them were mostly email & surf type guys. Broadband just meant faster email for them. And then there was us, the alpha geeks. We were kids, most of us, and the internet was our playground. We were all tuned into everything the undernet could offer: Napster, MIRC, FTP fileservers, games, software... we hoarded everything. When we ran out of hard drive space, we'd put some data on the copyeditor's machine. And then some on some other machine, and so on. We didn't stop until the CEO started cracking down on us.

I remember the first time I saw a DVD rip, it was a rip of X-Men. Our jaws dropped. In less than three months, we had over a hundred movies. We were resourceful.

Everyone had their own specialty: one guy collected ROMS and ebooks. One guy had all the games scoped out. One guy took care of the movies and software. And then there were some who had a prodigious appetite, who had scoped out everything. And had extra hardware to back it up.

We stayed in late nights, delighting in this information that came straight out of a firehose. We shared folders, burnt CDs, painstakingly, one every 20 minutes. Getting this information out of the office: it was a pain. We used to come during weekends to get it out. We really cherished these bits.

I don't know how all that information empowered or changed us, but I can speak for myself.

It's like we I from the future. There's a big ego trip in being a distro. Information that I shared would then go through ten loops, and then be thrown back at me, a few months later. "Hey, have you seen this?" and then I'd say, "Yeah yeah, of course I have. Months ago."

How we would hoard data. If only we knew how useless it would become with time.

Speaking of useless, a friend of mine, who shall not be named (because this is an article about warez) worked at a cybercafe as some kind of sysadmin in the pre-2000 era. Of the 256k bandwidth, he hogged 70% of the bandwidth. While the cybercafe owner barked at the ISP for the slow speeds, this friend of mine worked like an ant, amassing a gigantic collection of porn. He right click and saved, one after another, image after image. Everything meticulously sorted and categorized in folders. 600 MB of it.

Three CDs.

We were dedicated.

Things have changed now. Technology has made obsessive collectors of us all.

Energy Reserves

"We need to consider both the estimated total reserves (i.e. quantities of fossil energy with 90% confidence that such supplies exist), from both conventional and unconventional sources, and the estimated resource base of the various fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. From simple arithmetic of dividing the total reserve and/or resource base by the current burn rate of each type of fossil energy, it can be seen that we have between 40 and 80 years worth of oil reserves globally at our current burn rate of oil, and we have between 50-150 years of oil if the resource base is included. We have between 200-500 years of reserves of natural gas, and between 207-590 years of gas reserves, not including the natural gas potentially available as methane clathrates in the continental shelves. Similarly, we have between 200-2000 years of coal."

From here:

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spiderman 3 - A Consumer Experience

I've been listening to Kurt Vonnegut's final fuck off to humanity, Man without a Country, which has some of the best bits from his routine, all laced with a cynical world view that we're all doomed because of our greed and predatory instincts.

There's a nice chapter in it, where he gives a few tips on what makes a good story, and what makes a bad one. A good story requires the protagonist to have it bad, and things happen, and things get better, then worse, then better, and the overall sum of the upswings and downswings should have the cumulative effect of an upswing.

Cinderella is one of the all time great stories. You have Cinderella, whose mother dies, (bad) and is brutalised by a step mother and her ugly sisters (bad) and is then not allowed to go to the ball (bad) but then a fairy godmother comes and gives her new shoes and a nice dress and a pimped out ride (good) and then she dances with the prince (good) and becomes the belle of the ball (good) but then the clock strikes 12 and she reverts to her original status (bad) and so on and so forth, until she finally marries the prince and they live happily ever after (doubleplus good).

This is best exemplified by Chumbawumba's only hit single: Tubthumping.

People like these kind of stories. But then there's Shakespeare, who wrote Hamlet, which doesn't quite follow the same graphical trend. But it was well received because it was the truth. The truth about the human condition, a rare and elusive thing, untainted by jerkoff happy endings.

For me, the marketed pre-packaged Spiderman experience began much before the movie started. It started with my friend talking about his boyhood worship of Spiderman, and how much he looked forward to the latest installment. Fanboys are overgrown kids. Like the evangelical movement, they gain a captive audience when they are young and impressionable, and then cash off their fierce, undying loyalty for the rest of their lives.

Andre (my former roomate) made me suffer through a Final Fantasy animated movie once, and I tried patiently to understand the franchise, as an anthropologist would observe tribal rituals of some isolated, indigenous group. It was utterly boring, full of inside jokes and details that I knew nothing of, and while I stretched into a jaw-breaking yawn, Andre gushed every time Cloud unleashed his buster sword against Sephiroth, and was almost in tears by the time the movie climaxed.

From a chatlog today:

: dude
you remember that final fantasy movie we saw once?
it was full on cg
Andre: which one
Sriram: while we were in dubai
Sriram: it sucked

So yes, coming back to Spiderman 3, and my verdict on it. I'm not giving any stars here fuckers.
Spiderman was everything I expected it to be, and it was interesting to see how the entire package worked out. Even before the movie started, I was subjected to some unadulterated American horseshit: Advertisements for Hummer H3, Ford SUVs, Pepsi, Mc Donalds, etc.

The Mc Donalds ad was awesome. It showed how the Mc Donalds corporation handpicks choice produce from indigenous hardworking Arab peasants, with the same enthusiasm that a mother would at a market in Tunisia or Lebanon. They had this edit where they show a guy going through each slice of halal meat with a magnifying glass, examining it for manufacturing defects, etc.

My point is, I know the movie is basically a fairy tale, but even before you are whisked into that zone of suspension of disbelief, they cram some truly potent, horrifying bullshit. It's like how some apps or cracks sneak up and install web toolbars, spyware, and popups in your PC.

Coming to the movie, (I know I've digressed plenty), it follows the Cinderella format, and I have no complaints with that, or expectations otherwise. I have no problems with conceiving the idea that a man gets zapped by some particle physics experiment and then becomes a self aggregating nano swarm of dust particles. Or of an alien symbiote that amplifies the qualities of the host, but finally overwhelms it and consumes it.

I only reverted into to my critical defensive posture about fourteen times. These were complete what the fuck movements, where I wanted to jam the sharp end of a pencil into the scriptwriter's eyeballs.

1) Spiderman as Emo-Hitler: Evil Spiderman now bonded with alien symbiote and struts like a manwhore at Times Square. The only way they could portray his new found sexuality was to have him ape John Travolta in Saturday Night Live. It's called coprophagia.

2) Aunt visits Peter's house: Peter consorts with Aunt May when it comes to matters of love, who gives him a quick one minute sermon, and leaves, saying "Peter, I know you'll find a way to put it right." When has an old aunt dropped in for just five minutes? This has no basis in reality, or human history. If an Aunt visited me, she would bore the fuck out of me, bitch and moan about her arthritis, her vanishing pensions, about her horrible neighbours, inquire about every single person I was related to, and bitch some more. I would have seriously cheered for this movie if suddenly, amidst quick million dollar cuts of Petrucci like CG virtuosity, suddenly hits the breaks and gives Aunt May her best shot at an Oscar. Give us a 45 minute rant from the aunt, Sam Raimi, as an example to all aunts and relatives who have bored us out of our skulls.

3) Ramu Kaka Scene:
I'm sure every Indian who's ever seen a Bollywood movie knows Ramu kaka. He's the indentured servant, who uses his stoic silence to speak out only once during the movie. He's the arbitrator of disputes before the climax, who quickly defuses family tensions in a 3 line sermon. It's usually a pitch that begins like most job interviews do, experience. The Ramu kaka element has now wedged itself into Spiderman 3.

Maalik maine barson se aapka namak khaya...isliye ek baat kehna chahta hun...Spiderman ne aap ke baap ko nahi mara. Unke laash ko maine apne haath se saaf kia, aur unke pet mein unke khudki choori ke ghaav the. Spiderman ne unka khoon nahi kiya, woh apne hi jaan le baithen.

What next? Drooling rape scenes? Shakti Kapoor to star in Spiderman 4?

4) Spiderman goes to church
This was a typical bollywood scene too, where the mother goes to a temple and whams all the bells and demands goddess Durga/Lakshmi/Shiva to be sanctified of her misery/sins or to be granted some kind of wish.

And in his clanging of church bells, he is sanctified, born again, forgiven for his sins. But hey, it's the accoustic properties of these bells man, stop hatin Jesus yo.

5) Amerikkaa
I knew they would put a of flag waving bit in there, and I wasn't disappointed.

6) Spiderman Cries.
The worst risk that a director can take according to me, is to give an extra moment to a sappy scene. The sappiest of scenes arise when someone dies. The Wachowski brothers gave two extra minutes to Trinity and Neo, and when I think of Matrix 3, I only remember that extra moment of triteness and suckitude. I'm never renting/downloading/ watching Matrix 3 again. Fuck, even 300, that supposedly aggro testosterone movie had some really gay scenes where two warriors concede way too much love before they die. Stop fagging up my movie.