December 29, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

What a bit of sunshine can do in the most hopeless of situations!

A hilarious tragic-comedy that'll have you in splits while it breaks your heart. Situational humor that makes you forget the dysfunctionality of the family within which it happens. A streak of stray sunshine that momentarily obliterates the bleakness that surrounds a family ready to fall apart; parents on the brink of a divorce, a delusional father but a step away from bankruptcy, an overwhelmed mother who's recently been burdened with her thirty year old brother who is gay and suicidal, a war veteran grandfather who is obsessed with sex, a teenage son who has muted himself and lies buried in Nietzche while forced to share a room with the suicidal uncle. The only redeeming feature is Olive, the 9 year old, whose hundred watt smile could brighten a universe. She is competing in the final rounds of the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant that she is destined to lose because of her obvious little paunch; a result of her love for 'good food'!

I'm embarrassed to label the movie a comedy; even apologetic for finding it funny. The humor depicted was at the cost of a family's happiness; something I completely disregarded or was oblivious to, while reeling under peels of laughter in the movie hall. The fact I could do that, says a lot about how akin we are with situations such as those presented in the movie. I wonder if that is a statement on the society we live in? Are we to understand that dysfunctionality within a family is quite the norm? That we can calmly pass it by, even ignore it, and then go a step beyond to find humor in the bizarre situations that it creates? The next question that comes to mind is about the writer's intent. Was he holding up a mirror to society and smirking when he saw his audience laugh? Or else, like the rest of us, he's developed an immunity to this dysfunctionality that exists, and can now create humor, even while family values are being trampled on.

A must see for anyone who appreciates low key 'n top quality humor, rendered by some fine actors in unique situations that speak volumes for the storytellers creativity.

Blogger Upgrade Problems

I've switched to the new Blogger version, and as expected there are some surprises; I find many of the comments on my posts are now titled 'anonymous' that earlier carried a name! This may be due to a variety of reasons, and I apologize for any communication exigencies that may occur as a result.

December 19, 2006

'Blood Diamond'

Sierra Leone's bloody civil war of the late 90's is captured by this action packed thriller, "Blood Diamond", starring Leonardo DiCaprio and the Beninese actor Djimon Hinsou of the "Amistad" fame. Perhaps the United Nations can set up a partnership with Hollywood for catching public attention and raising public awareness about issues that plague our world today; Sierra Leone, Darfur, Afghanistan, Colombia. This movie successfully brings out the issue of illegal diamond mining in Sierra Leone and the illicit sale of diamonds thereof. The pathetic plight of the exploited diamond mine workers is whipped to the forefront by Zwick's thriller. No individual having watched this movie would be able to buy a diamond without wondering whether it is a 'conflict diamond'! It may be wishful thinking on my part but possibly the Diamond District in New York may have taken a temporary hit because of this movie. Couples wanting to get engaged may, for the time being, have been guilted out of buying that diamond ring!

Illicit diamond mining has been a major issue at various global conferences these past few years, yet, that hasn’t affected diamond sales in any significant way. Primarily for two reasons: one that global issues such as these seldom break the confines of the conference sites or the tenement of an exclusive bureacracy to reach the common man. The other reason is that the social conscience of most human beings is very easily appeased by words: “the diamond I buy is not a ‘conflict diamond’”, " I made sure I did not buy a diamond from Sierra Leone". These consolatory words do two things: placate a stirring conscience back into apathy, and convince the buyer to go ahead and write the check to get ownership of a diamond. If anything, movies like 'Blood Diamond' could only affect how diamonds get marketed to the general public henceforth. For instance Tiffany could market its diamonds using a different line: “flash it without guilt”, ‘your diamond, your conscience keeper’, and other such euphemisms.

Statistics show that Americans are prolific diamond buyers, and knowingly or otherwise may have sparked off and sustained many vicious wars in places such as Sierra Leone. Movies such as “Blood Diamond”, therefore, may raise public awareness of global issues in the American public, but whether it’ll bring about a change in the life of those exploited workers in Sierra Leone is debatable.

A trifle violent and at times gory, 'Blood Diamond' is definitely worth watching, if only to nudge us out of our complacency.

December 11, 2006

Harry Frankfurt's 'On Bullshit'. A definition, a defense, or dizzy dialectic?

The title "On Bullshit" is no doubt an eyecatcher, as is the compactness of the book: a 67 page 7"x5" book; the single reason I picked it up. As they say, appearances are often deceptive, and this one surely was. The 67 page book is a piece of dense non-fiction that took me over three hours to read and another some to comprehend. Every page is dialectic so coherent, so convincing that the reader, manacled in argument, is lead into a maze where the only way out is to suspend disbelief and go where the author leads you.

The term 'bullshit' is not merely a reference to a British expletive but also to an activity that millions of us, world over, are engrossed in. Harry Frankfurt, after admitting that 'bullshit' is a British coinage, goes on to define bullshit in many creative ways: 'humbug','hot air', a male cow's 'corpse of nourishment', and many such more. That's when the reader wonders why he's reading an entire treatise about something that is 'short of lying', is an irreverent and colloquial usage, and is as hard core British as 'bull shit'. At this point in the book the author may very well lose his reader who might choose to abandon the book for its lack of real substance. Well Frankfurt didn't lose me. Not so much because of his creativity at defining bullshit, or his defense of it thereof; it was because I needed to find out the relevance of 'bullshit'. I was piqued by the newly established importance of 'bullshit' that makes a professor at Princeton say "although it (bullshit) is produced without concern with the truth, it need not be false". Having said that, the reputed professor then decides to write an entire book about it.

Whether Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" is able to give 'bullshit' its rightful meaning and place in our world, is not immediately discernible. However, it's interesting that Frankfurt chose to write a sequel to this book soon after, and titled it "On Truth".

The 'Truth' is out there somewhere, and I must pause till it comes to me.