Friday, August 31, 2007


why did timbaland have to rap

Careerwise, the recent album M.I.A.'s Kala recalls is Kanye West's Late Registration -- an unexpectedly sure-footed follow-up to a brainy beat-adept's can-you-top-this debut. And though West is the more universal musician, especially as Americans conceive the universe, there are also musical similarities: Both albums challenge sophomore slump by risking pretension. But where West hired classically trained Jon Brion, the Sri Lankan-British rapper spread out and bent down low. Originally she'd hoped to trade the grimy beats of 2005's Arular for the more radio-friendly dirt of Timbaland. That plan fizzled, for two reasons -- not just the feds' refusal to let M.I.A. re-enter the U.S., but her instinctive reluctance to turn into Nelly Furtado once the chance was in her lap.

Plus, though she's polite about it, a sneaking suspicion that maybe Timbo wasn't all that -- that there were edgier beat-makers all over the place. With visa madness blockading her new Brooklyn apartment, she turned world traveler, pulling in multiple Indian musics and encompassing Jamaican dance-hall moves,Indian-Trinidadian multicontinental mash-up, Liberian vibes, a British-Nigerian rapper, Australian aboriginal hip-hop, Baltimore hip-hop, Jonathan Richman, the Clash and a bonus afterthought from Timbaland's solo album. Though she claims this record is more personal and less political than Arular, that's misleading. The political was all too personal on an album obsessed with her long-lost father, a player in Sri Lanka's terrorist-revolutionary Tamil Tigers. Here, that conflict-ridden relationship is behind her. Star access enables a woman who grew up an impoverished refugee to observe the outcomes of similar histories in immigrant and minority communities worldwide. If you don't think that's political, ask your mama -- or hers, who's named Kala.

Arular was about M.I.A. -- her ambition, her education, her contradictions, her history of violence. Kala is about the brown-skinned Other now obsessing Euro-America -- described from the outside by a brown-skinned sympathizer who's an insider for as long as her visa holds up. It opens with the uninvitingly spare "Bamboo Banga," which samples Indian Tamil filmi composer Ilayaraja and bends the lyric of Richman's "Roadrunner" so it celebrates a kid running alongside a Third World tourist's Hummer and banging on its door. "BirdFlu" disses dogging males everywhere -- "selfish little roamers" -- over another filmi sample and a barely synchronized four-four on some thirty deep-toned urmi drums. Also on "BirdFlu," high kiddie/girlie interjections add a cuteness that's sustained pitchwise on "Boyz," with its video of synchronized Kingston rudies shaking their moneymakers for the Interscope dollar. Only with "Jimmy," a Bollywood disco number a kiddie M.I.A. used to dance to for money at Sri Lankan parties, does a conventional song surface.

You've probably gathered that unlike Late Registration, Kala is less pop-friendly than its predecessor. It's heavier, noisier, more jagged. Timbaland might conceivably have found a hit for M.I.A.; London-based "dirty house" producer Switch, credited on eight of twelve tracks, will not. The eclectic world-underclass dance amalgam M.I.A. has constructed is an art music whose concept recalls the Clash as much as anything else -- the aggression of the early Clash and the reach of the late (who she samples). But soon enough, the music does soften and, occasionally, give up a tune. There's melancholy melodica, Sri Lankan temple horn, the eighteen-year-old rapper Afrikanboy describing his hustles, and several child choruses, notably on "Mango Pickle Down River," where preteens rap about bridges and fridges to rhyme with the didge -- didgeridoo -- that provides their groaning bass.

But none of these pleasures comes as easy as the high spirits of M.I.A.'s debut album seemed to promise. And in the end, that's why Kala strikes deep. There's a resolute sarcasm, a weariness and defiant determination, a sense of pleasure carved out of work -- articulated by the lyrics, embodied by the music. A riot of human, musical and mechanical sounds bubbles underneath these tracks. Not a white riot, that's for sure, and not a dangerous one either -- unless you believe every Other wants what you got and has nothing to offer in return. Kala proves what bullshit that is. The danger is all the evil fools who aren't convinced.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

funny sh*t

i jus wanna document this:

"On 14th February 2007, at 8:52 pm, romance was officially declared deceased by the on-call surgeon at the Royal London Hospital, Dr Cupid.
After being kept alive on life-support for so long, it was said to be a relief, especially to those who had feigned effort at pretending anyone still knew who romance was"

from qmul student mag (i think)
that quote - one of the funniest things i've ever read

documenting this too:
'I hate rubbish. From people. So don't give me any. And if you start dealing in rubbish, realize that you smell bad to everyone around you. So don't deal in it, ya get me'

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007

Watch and learn

More than popcorn.

"The Bourne Ultimatum"
In this exhilarating action threequel, Jason Bourne emerges as the sort of troubled but resolute hero the world needs most.
By Stephanie Zacharek

Aug. 3, 2007 | Jason Bourne, in theory, could be George W. Bush's dream historian, a loyal foot soldier who has been conditioned to obey and serve but whose mind has been broken and reconfigured to conveniently forget certain details and fixate on others. You couldn't find a better candidate to sit down and write a glowing record of the W. presidency. It would be a masterpiece of selective memory -- except for the fact that Jason Bourne insists on trying to use even the parts of his brain that don't work.

When Robert Ludlum wrote the Bourne novels in the '80s, he probably didn't conceive of his character -- an amnesiac killer who hunts his targets with machinelike efficiency, even as the remaining shreds of his human decency cloud his brain like tattered ghosts -- as a freethinking leftist American patriot. But in "The Bourne Ultimatum" -- the third picture in the Bourne franchise, and the second to be directed by extraordinary English filmmaker Paul Greengrass -- Jason Bourne emerges as the kind of troubled but resolute hero we most need these days, a figure who insists on peering through the murk rather than letting it block the truth. Jason Bourne, clawing his way out of madness, still has a conscience even though he has lost most of his mind.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a great action movie, exhilarating and neatly crafted, the kind of picture that will still look good 20 or 30 years from now. And while it isn't a cheerful picture, I found it to be an oddly comforting one, perhaps more so than its two predecessors, 2002's "The Bourne Identity" (directed by Doug Liman) and Greengrass' 2004 "The Bourne Supremacy." In "The Bourne Ultimatum," Jason Bourne's isolation feels weightier and more oppressive than ever. But then again, sometimes -- particularly if you're killing people and you don't know why -- isolation is the only appropriate feeling. There's a way in which Greengrass and the movie's writers, Tony Gilroy and Scott Z. Burns, make Jason's separateness so palpable that it's practically a communal state, something that draws us closer to him rather than distances us.

In all three of these movies, Jason Bourne -- played by Matt Damon, an actor so old-fashioned all-American that he looks as if he'd be most at home in one of those 1940s football costumes with the leather helmet -- knows he's a killer; he simply has no idea what his motives are, or who or what may have instilled these murderous impulses. At the beginning of the second film, "The Bourne Supremacy," Bourne's girlfriend, Marie (played by marvelous, openhearted actress Franka Potente), is killed suddenly. She has been trying to help him remember who he is, and to find out who's instigating these ruthless missions. "The Bourne Ultimatum" simply drops us into the middle of Jason's story and assumes we're hip to it. But even at this point in Jason's nightmare adventure, as he sprints to keep at least two (and often 20) paces ahead of the top-secret CIA forces that are trying to kill him, Marie is still a not-so-spectral presence. In "The Bourne Ultimatum" he explains to Nicky (wonderfully stern and serene Julia Stiles), the young CIA agent who keeps looping into his story, "I can see their faces -- everyone I ever killed. I just don't know their names." And then he adds, as if struggling to retrieve stray scraps of memory from the corners of his brain, "Marie would try to help me remember their names."

In this moment -- and in many other moments in the Bourne movies -- Damon, who seems to be a perfectly fine actor locked behind that nominally uninteresting yearbook-picture face, is a figure of solitude straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, although this guy isn't just alone with his memories, he's alone, period. Bourne isn't the prototypical American loner hero, the upright stoic type who knows what's right in his slow-moving bones. (For one thing, his bones move too fast: The chase sequences in all the Bourne movies are marvelous, but in "The Bourne Ultimatum," Greengrass brings them to a level of artistry, and of mounting horror, that tops even what has come before.) Bourne is a U.S. citizen, but more essentially, he's a citizen of the world: "The Bourne Ultimatum" jumps from city to city -- London, Moscow, Paris, Tangier, New York -- as if national boundaries were just bothersome fences begging to be hopped. Bourne travels light (although even his single knapsack is laden with meaning), and he seems to speak every imaginable language, presumably because of all the evil CIA training he has received, but that doesn't discount the reality of his need for connection and communication: For Bourne, all soil is foreign soil, which means that home could be anywhere or nowhere.

I think fans of the previous two Bourne movies may fear that reading too much about "The Bourne Ultimatum" could spoil their pleasure of it. But there's barely a plot to spoil -- there's only movement, and sensation. Joan Allen reappears as Pamela Landy, the CIA honcho who's entrusted with trapping the elusive Bourne, even as her sympathy for him (and her distrust of the organization she works for) increases. Paddy Considine plays an earnest Guardian journalist whose title is "security correspondent," and if any actor has the face of an earnest Guardian journalist, it's Considine: Even his eyes ask unanswerable questions. Scott Glenn appears as the lizardlike director of the CIA, who wants his orders followed without having to dirty his own mitts. David Strathairn is a Company bigwig, an arrogant mirror image of the Edward R. Murrow he gave us in "Good Night, and Good Luck." And Albert Finney, an actor whose face I don't believe I could ever tire of, appears as -- well, that you really don't want to know.

Greengrass doesn't pace "The Bourne Ultimatum" in the usual way, building tension and then allowing it to release before starting up the whole process again. Instead, he uses the movie's first few minutes to establish a pulse. After that, all of the movie's beats -- its anxious moments and its calmer ones -- hit in response to that pulse. Greengrass' methods as a filmmaker have always felt more organic than mechanical, especially in his greatest picture, the 2002 "Bloody Sunday," an account of the Jan. 30, 1972, massacre on the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 13 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by British soldiers. Greengrass doesn't shy away from making the horrors of history feel immediate and disturbingly alive.

Maybe guys like Greengrass should be reserved only for serious pictures about serious subjects, movies like "Bloody Sunday" and "United 93" (the latter a picture whose mere existence I have problems with, as much as I respect Greengrass' technique and approach). Then again, action movies desperately need more guys like Greengrass. The violence in "The Bourne Ultimatum" is exciting, all right. But very few contemporary directors know how to film action and violence with the kind of chaotic clarity Greengrass does. That may seem like a contradiction, but Greengrass knows how to use a movie frame so we know where to look every instant -- and still, we can't ever be certain that we're catching it all, because violence by its nature is unmanageable. In a street chase sequence set in Tangier, Morocco, Bourne runs for his life through courtyards and across rooftops, leaping from building to building through windows that aren't always open. Part of the sequence involves a motorbike chase, but Greengrass presents it as an example of boyish shenanigans with real-life consequences. And in the fight sequences, Greengrass never lets us forget that every landed punch causes real pain: One, in particular, is so beautifully choreographed that it left me feeling a little heartsick, as if I'd just watched a perfectly executed tragic love scene. In that sequence, a book is used as a weapon, a bitter rejoinder to the generally comforting idea that books are our friends.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a movie packed with exploding fragments of information. As Bourne repeatedly rattles the padlocked chain wrapped around his memory, we see and hear shards of the past he can't remember: Bourne hooded and bound, being roughed up by men whose faces we can't see; voices speaking in broken-up phrases (" ... tank treatment ..." "... hasn't slept for 52 hours ...").

At one point a character states flatly, "We are the sharp end of the stick," meaning that this not-so-royal "we" answers to no one. If someone, anyone, needs to be disposed of, there's no paperwork to fill out, no clearance needed from the higher-ups. A murder can be ordered up like a pizza; a previous, sensible decision can be overturned with a single phone call. Against all of that, a guy like Jason Bourne, with his mangled brain and whirring conscience, shouldn't stand a chance -- and yet he's the last man standing. They've given him a number and taken away his name, but what he stands for can't be so easily erased.

I hope it doesn't have singing.

Gandhi My Father
Philip French
Sunday August 5, 2007
The Guardian

Most families have skeletons in the cupboard and black sheep in their midst and when people become famous, these closeted secrets are discovered or reveal themselves. One thinks of the troublesome children shaped by the coldness and parental neglect of Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, the embarrassing brothers of Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton or, on a more endearing note, that likable clown Terry Major-Ball, who helped humanise his brother John's term at Number 10.

One of the most revealing and courageous movies ever to come out of India, Feroz Abbas Khan's Gandhi My Father tells the extraordinary story of the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi (Darshan Jariwala) and his eldest son, Harilal (Akshaye Khanna). It will be an eye-opener to those whose knowledge of the Mahatma is limited to Richard Attenborough's epic biopic.
The movie begins in June 1948, a few weeks after Gandhi's assassination. A terminally ill, drunken, dirty, heavily bearded man is picked up in the streets of Bombay and gives his father's name as Gandhi. The officials at the paupers' hospital think he's referring to the nation's father, but he is in fact Harilal Gandhi.

The film is told in flashback, starting in 1906. The handsome Harilal (played by a Bollywood matinee idol) was left in India when his father went off to establish a law practice in South Africa and become a political leader and advocate of passive resistance and civil disobedience. Hari marries Gulab (Bhumika Chawla, Bollywood's answer to Scarlett Johansson), but is separated from her when summoned to join his family in Durban.

He hopes to emulate his father and read for the Bar in London, but the Mahatma, who sees family ties as inimical to his mission, denies him both his love and the formal education that would set him free. Sacrificing the boy to his principles, Gandhi sends him into battle against the oppressive South African authorities.

Hari's confidence and self-respect are permanently undermined, despite the attention and intervention of his devoted mother (a great performance from Shefali Shah). Nothing improves when the family return to India. While Gandhi's reputation and influence steadily grow, Hari's morale sinks as he tries to impress his father. His business schemes fail, he takes to drink, is convicted of fraud and his wife leaves him with their children. Forever stumbling, trying to pick himself up and seeking forgiveness, Hari is lured into becoming a Muslim, reverts to Hinduism and is finally disowned by his parents.

This heartbreaking story unfolds against a backdrop of great historical events, some conveyed through monochrome newsreel material. The film's general effect is not to diminish the Mahatma's reputation or to stick ugly warts on a familiar hagiographic portrait. It's to make him more human and vulnerable and to explain the high price paid by him and his wife when he decided to sacrifice himself to the political, social and spiritual liberation of his people. The movie has some rough edges, but it affected me as powerfully as anything I've seen this past couple of years.