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Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006

From the User’s Guide to Indian Films Intro


The movies described in the User’s Guide are the hit list of Indian cinema. They’re not only the best films of all time, but they give you the best glimpse of what Indians enjoy, their sense of tragedy and comedy, their aspirations, their regrets. In short, it’s a visual chronicle of Indian society in the last fifty years. Enjoy.



Week 4: Mughal-E-Azam (“The Great Mughal”)
1960, recently restored to color, Hindi.
Dir: K. Asif


Bollywood’s definitive historical film. The war of wills between the late 16th century Emperor Akbar and his son, Salim (the future Emperor Jahangir) over Salim’s love affair with a palace slave girl, Anarkali, is the source of endless fascination in Indian cultural history. Bazaars and streets in North India are even named after the lovers. Accuracy and truth plays a modest role here, with the story of a slave girl who sought the love of a prince and dared to defy the Emperor having an irresistible, romantic allure, like the love triangles of the Arthurian legends. Not mention, the Mughal court was a haven of such opulence that it couldn’t help but unlock the imagination. This is why many directors before Asif refused to even touch a story set in such an expensive period. Asif’s meticulous attention to detail cost the studio three million dollars at the end of 1960, a time when the average Indian film cost $200,000 to make. The awe surrounding the movie’s overextended budget persists even today.  In the Indian film industry, the joke goes that whenever a movie takes longer than six weeks, the producer berates the director by asking, “What the hell are you doing here? Shooting Mughal-E-Azam?” The movie’s name has become the code word for “epic.” And epic it is. Filled with bejeweled interiors, paradiscal gardens, and sprawling battle scenes with chain mail clad warriors astride elephants, Mughal-E-Azam almost seems like a comic book fantasy of Eastern exoticism, like Disney’s Aladdin. But the strength of the film lies in Asif’s respect for a bygone era and his direction of the three charismatic stars, Prithviraj Kapoor (Akbar), Dilip Kumar (Salim), and Madhubala (Anarkali). All three breathe humanity into the fabled characters.


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Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

Or catch them singing the same song in acoustic fashion at the Cornerstone/FADAR offices…



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Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006

Marketers who specialize in getting teen girls to buy things can always be counted on to have their chosen demographic’s best interests at heart. After all, marketers just want people to become who they really are, as the firms’ market research has revealed them to be. An ad provides useful information that empowers consumers; it never tries to befuddle them or attempt to exploit their insecurities. And marketers certainly wouldn’t want to reinforce any retrograde stereotypes. Never, no way. Here’s proof.


The “all-girl talent team” at marketing firm 3iYing, which “specializes in marketing to girls ages 15 to 25,” has a column in BusinessWeek this week in which they (somewhat self-servingly) criticize the existing state of advertising targeted at teenage girls. “Girls cringe at overtly sexual ads, yet paradoxically, marketing campaigns targeted at teen girls are sex-obsessed. It’s impossible for us to browse, shop, and surf online without being bombarded with groping bodies, akimbo legs, come-hither gazes, and other provocative imagery. Even when we escape to teen magazines, we find sex staring back at us.” They are so right; everyone knows that teen girls shouldn’t be interested in sex, and that if they are it needs to take a higher form then models pretending to make out in a photograph: “Girls want a deeper storyline. To us, sexuality is more than physical. It combines visual, intellectual, and emotional elements.” As for us guys, we just close our eyes, empty our minds and steel ourselves for some stoic, emotionless orgasms. Teenage girls are far more “sophisticated.” For them, sex comes with a storyline, probably one that ends happily ever after with wedding bells (and hopefully with lots of expensive clothes and jewelry and cosmetics other such products one has to market to girls purchased along the way).


In other words, what girls want is true love. “Often, ads are so sexual, it’s not clear what is really being sold. By relying on sex to sell your product you are not only getting lost in the steamy sea of marketing erotica, you’re not highlighting what you want us to love in the first place—your product.” Girls are ready and waiting to fall in love with branded objects, if only advertisers would stop treating them as if they enjoyed sex for its own sake. That, as “modern girls know,” is “raunchy” and “cheap”: “Raunchy is when the message is strictly graphic and physical, when there is no mystery, romance, sincerity or deeper meaning. Raunchy campaigns communicate only one idea—‘girl wants some’—using the same visual messaging typical of pornography. Raunchy is a cheap play for attention. It shows lack of imagination and depth in the people and brands that use it.”  Girls, you see, don’t “want.” Such passion would be unseemly, base and immoral, as well as being shallow and without imagination. And looking raunchy, i.e. expressing sexual desire, just gives men an excuse to exploit you. “When a girl acts or dresses raunchy she doesn’t get respect, at least no one takes the time to look beyond her body and appreciate her mind. The raunchy look signals to every nearby male ‘Hi! I’m game for action.’ ” A “modern girl” should never seek action. She is a passive, frail flower, who’d best wait for the true love that comes looking for her. She understands a true courtier when he comes calling. “If the marketing community thinks [a sexy ad] is what girls find hip and edgy, then they grossly underestimate how mature and cultured we are. Girls’ aesthetic tastes and relationship requirements are sophisticated. So if you want your messages to be relevant, give us more than animal urges.” Girls don’t want something shallow in their relationship with an ad; they want something deep and lasting. They want a sophisticated relationship. They want their ads to be polite, gentlemanly. If you can’t trust an ad to be hip, sophisticated and relevant, what can you trust? Luckily modern girls have lots of products to choose from when looking for a knight in shining armor: “We girls have more product options than ever and very limited time to be hooked before we turn our attention to the next product or advertisement. In this competitive environment, advertising must deliver visually, intellectually, and emotionally interesting content that builds the brand and seduces us. Marketers must demonstrate the unique properties of a product so that we instantly appreciate its relevance in our life and fantasies.”


I can’t speak for teenage girls, but I really doubt they are pining for ads that will absorb more of their attention and be more “relevant”. I don’t know that I believe stylized eroticism is “irrelevant” in that respect. (In fact, research suggests women’s brains react quickly and strongly to erotic images.) I’d guess girls don’t need emotional connection with an ad, even if they do expect it from their teen boyfriends (though I wonder if that requirement is not exaggerated). And they are probably better served by sexualized ads that let at least them know how much of the world intends to see them and allow them to react accordingly. To be fair, I agree with this 3iYing statement entirely (though the grammar seems a bit off): “Sensitivity, playfulness, authenticity, and emotional expression between couples is far more fascinating than being a trinket for men to play with.” I just don’t believe marketers are in any position to lecture anyone about “authenticity.”


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Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


DJ Never Forget
Going To Work mix mp3


Tracklist:


Hot Chip A Glue Too Thick
Portugal The Man How The Leopard Got Its Spots (Blake Miller Remix)
The Kingdom Love is my Nation (Copy Mix)
Cassius Toop Toop (Olivier Koletski Mix)
The Knife We Share Our Mothers Health (Trentemoller Remix)
The Klaxons Gravity’s Rainbow (Van She Remix)
Flow Flux Clan Fascination Street
Lo-Fi-Fnk vs Karin Strom Psykos (LFF Club Mix)?
Justice Vs Simian Never Be Alone?
Mstrkrft Work On You


DJ Night homepage: www.myspace.com/fingeronthepulsenyc


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Monday, Aug 21, 2006

When studios and filmmakers grouse over the effect DVD has on the box office, it’s usually day and date that they argue over. Back in the days of VHS, a major mainstream movie would wait several months before finding its way onto videotape – and even then, it was typically in a rental-only format. Sell-through didn’t arrive until much later, and with it came the death of such delays. But now, fans want titles as soon as possible, and for many in the industry, the faster a title arrives on the digital format, the lesser the likelihood an audience will visit the Cineplex to seek it out. This ‘wait and see…it at home’ principle has been blamed for the 2005 slump, and the diminishing returns for some high profile releases. This week, we have a clear example of this perplexing paradigm. A certified bomb from May makes its DVD debut a mere 12 weeks after it flopped in theaters. The question becomes, will the digital presentation be a hit, or will the film’s obvious flaws guarantee and equally fast exit from the brick and mortar. And what will it mean to day and date? We will just have to wait and see. Joining the cinematic shipwreck is a diverse collection of movies, including:


Double Indemnity: Special Edition*
For many, it’s one of the last DVD Holy Grails, a classic Billy Wilder film noir unconscionably left off the digital domain for far too long. But the fact of the matter is, Image Entertainment released a version of the seminal crime thriller back in 1998. This time around though, Universal does the title right, tossing in a pair of commentaries, a documentary, and even a TV movie version from 1973. Whatever the presentation parameters, this is one timeless example of Hollywood’s heyday that deserves to be on every film fans shelf.



Kicking and Screaming: The Criterion Collection*
Perhaps in preparation for a future visit to his critically acclaimed The Squid and the Whale, writer/director Noah Baumbach sees his first film, a story about disaffected college buddies who can’t quite commit to the responsibility of the real world, get the full blown Criterion Collection treatment. Witty, insightful, and just a little too in love with the notion of the campus as the last bastion of full blown freedom, Baumbach and his capable cast manage to make these pseudo-slackers symbols of the mid-90s malaise that swept over America.



Phat Girlz
There’s no denying the fact that, as a stand-up comedian, Mo’Nique Imes is talented. She is crude without being gross, cutting without resorting to racial slurs. Sadly, the same can’t be said for her movie career, which spans bit parts in Baby Boy, Soul Plane, and Domino and leading roles in Hair Show and this latest offering from April 2006. Using her plus size physique as the foundation for a film about love and acceptance, Phat Girlz tries to deliver a sincere message about the media’s role in shaping female body image. Too bad it’s trapped inside this lame, laugh-less excuse for entertainment.



PopMatters Review


Poseidon: 2 Disc Special Edition
It was the crappy capsizing heard round the cinematic world. Who would have thought that Wolfgang Peterson, responsible for the excellent actioners In the Line of Fire and Air Force One could screw up this remake of the beloved Irwin Allen disaster epic of the ‘70s. Sadly, with casting only The Love Boat could appreciate, and an overabundance of unconvincing CGI, what should have been a summer blockbuster slamdunk for Warner Brothers is now appearing a mere 12 weeks after the film opened in theaters. Even on DVD, it’s still a waterlogged waste of time.



PopMatters Review


Silent Hill*
Forget what you’ve heard about this film – that it’s merely a big screen translation of a far more frightening video game, that it’s The Descent without the claustrophobic cave setting – and settle back for a creature feature for the ages. Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans outdoes himself in the mood and mystery department, taking the Playstation platform title and making it his very own. Featuring stellar performances and unnerving effects, Silent Hill represents the pinnacle of creepy, atmospheric horror. It is the most satisfying movie macabre in a very long time, and coming in a year when Hostel and The Hills Have Eyes redefined the genre, that’s saying a lot.



PopMatters Review


State of the Union*
A true forgotten gem from the oeuvre of three of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters – Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and filmmaker Frank Capra – this timely political allegory about the difference between one’s personal and public persona couldn’t be more timely, especially in our 24 hour a day media coverage mentality. Though Universal fails to flesh out this release with significant contextual bells and whistles, this DVD is still worth owning if only for the moment when Tracy tries to address the nation while a drunken Hepburn lashes out at “the other woman”. Talk about feeling ripped from today’s headlines.



The Wizard
Far be it from Short Ends & Leader to deny the retro resplendence of this love letter to Ninetendo and its Super Mario Brothers. Indeed, The Wizard represents a veritable right of passage for anyone who grew up under the hypnotizing influence of the NES game system and those crazy, mushroom stomping plumbers. With a young Fred Savage as the older brother of Jimmy “The Wizard” Woods and more nods to arcade culture than a weekend at E3, this simplistic plot about familial appreciation and a video game championship predated our current Xbox/Game Cube standard. Back then, professional gaming seemed asinine. Today, it’s every adolescent’s dream job.




And Now for Something Completely Different

In a new weekly addition to Who’s Minding the Store, SE&L will feature an off title disc worth checking out. For 22, August:


Tromeo and Juliet: 10th Anniversary Edition*
Marking the second DVD go-round for this beloved Troma title, the Bard’s basic story of star-crossed lovers is fused with a scatological punk rock sensibility to create the first ever gross out version of a Shakespeare play. Perhaps more amazing than the awkward performances, plentiful gore, and abundant nudity is the number of unknown actors and crewmembers who went on to become famous fixtures in both Hollywood and the Indie film scene. They include screenwriter James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead) Will Keenan (Operation Midnight Climax) and current reigning b-movie scream queen Debbie Rochon.


*=PopMatters Picks


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