Thursday, February 26, 2009

In India

For some reason I've been inundated with India-infused pop culture as of late. I saw Slumdog Millionaire, I spent about two months reading John Irving's A Son Of The Circus, and I recently received one of Rohinton Mistry's novels as a gift. And, in one of my final days in my old apartment, I returned home to find the door masking taped shut from the inside since my roommate was cooking curry and didn't want the smell to get out into the hallway. I thought it was very considerate of her, before I realized that the tape meant that more of the smell stayed in the apartment. As a result, I can no longer root for Davidson and Stephen Curry during March Madness. It's tough, but fair.

So yeah, Slumdog Millionaire. What more can be said about the film that hasn't already been said? It's unlikely that any of you out there will go, "I wasn't convinced after the critical acclaim or the Best Picture Oscar, but now that Mark has given the thumbs up, I'll have to see it!" (Though if you are saying this, my ego will swell to Trump-ian standards). I'm almost afraid to go into detailed criticism given that I'll probably be repeating myself when I get around to my 2008 entry of my big movie project with Kyle, but needless to say, it's a terrific movie. What I think I found the most amusing about the film as a whole is that it quite unabashedly builds itself upon the inherent tension of an episode of 'Millionaire.' Say what you will about the modern-day syndicated show with their 500 lifelines and Skype connections, but those original shows were legitimately suspenseful as hell. So the concept of taking the suspense of a Millionaire episode and adding layers of crime, class warfare and forbidden love around it is flat-out brilliant. As someone who has stopped and started as many writing projects as Axl Rose has held up 'Chinese Democracy' release dates, the hardest thing that I find in writing is coming up with a concept. The few times I've had such tight concepts, everything just flows and the actual writing process is very simple. I can imagine that when Vikas Swarup (author of the novel that Slumdog was adapted from) thought up the idea of telling a life story through the answers to game show questions, he sat back and celebrated with an ice-cold beer. Or water. Swarup may be a teetotaler, how the hell should I know.


As noted, it took about two months for me to finish A Son Of The Circus, which I think may be the longest it's ever taken me to read a novel that wasn't assigned for school. The record-holder is Frances Burney's atrociously boring Evelina. It was assigned for third-year English and, since this was still in my keener days, I decided to get cracking on the reading list during the summer. So technically, it took me from late August to February reading week to finish it off. In my defense, I actually finished Evelina while on spring break in Florida, so that shows at least a bit of commitment. Sure, that may have been because I had to write an essay about it, but still. What's really important is that I resisted the urge to leave the novel in the toilet of a gas station off the I-75 outside of Atlanta.

But anyway, back to the topic at hand. I'm not sure why it took so long to read the book, since while I enjoyed it, I always felt that after 40-50 pages in a sitting, I was satisfied and could put it down for a while. There was also a three-week gap where I didn't read anything due to the fact that after the first 300 pages of this 670+ page novel, John Irving wrapped things up really well. All of the plot elements and the 'mystery' introduced in the first part of the book are totally paid off --- pages 240-300, or thereabouts, were gripping as hell. The problem was, as I mentioned, the book went on for another 370 pages and focused on the interesting-but-not-as-interesting storyline of John D's priest brother. You know how everyone complained about the elongated ending of the third Lord Of The Rings movie? That was just a 15-minute sequence. Imagine if Frodo threw the ring into the lava at the halfway point. Again, it's not that the latter half of the book was bad (far from it), but it just felt somewhat anti-climactic. Ideally, Irving would've build to another climax at the end, thus making the overall narrative arc of the book look like four-fifths of an M. Irving's next novel, 'A Widow For One Year,' had a similar problem, as it really topped out after its first third. This might be why Irving's NEXT novel, 2001's "The Fourth Hand" took a less-is-more strategy and blocked in at barely over 300 pages.

This sounds like I'm being too negative about a book that, once again, I did in fact enjoy. So I'll highlight the greatness that is the central character, Farrokh Daruwalla, the doctor/really terrible screenwriter of the 'reprehensible' Inspector Dhar films. The Fifth Business-ness of Dr. Daruwalla never failed to crack me up. Everything involving his shadow career as the creative force behind the impossibly shitty Inspector Dhar movies (and the Dhar movies themselves, which are stereotypically hilarious in the snippets we hear of them) is pure gold. I would've read an entire book based on those alone...preferably a 300-pager.


I haven't touched the Rohinton Mistry book yet, so I'll focus on another Indian-related item. Bobby Jindal = Kenneth Parcell.

I love how in the wake of Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, the GOP has apparently decided to model all of their leaders after 30 Rock cast members. I don't think I've actually heard Michael Steele speak so I can't compare him to Tracy Jordan, Dot Com or Grizz. Will Dr. Spaceman be the top Republican critic against universal health care?


As you may have noticed, the 'best HBO show' tournament has been somewhat accelerated, as I've moved the first-round winners into four-show groups (plus one five-show group to account for a tie) so we'll immediately jump into the final four. The reason? This tournament is taking goddamn forever. I really should've thought through the logistics of a 32-show bracket before I begun. This has been the exact opposite of March Madness. You could call it....March BADNESS. *rim shot*

What does this have to do with India? Uh...look over there! [/sound of door slamming]

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