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Monthly Archives: April 2012

#sixseasonsandamovie: A tribute to Dan Harmon

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#sixseasonsandamovie: A tribute to Dan Harmon

There are some shows that jump out of the screen and slap you across the face from the first scene. And you know, you’re addicted before the opening credits even begin. Two episodes, 44 minutes and 42 seconds into Season 1 of Community, and I still wasn’t sure what the deal with this show was but man, that Spanish rap was hilarious!

Community, a show about seven misfits who form a study group in a community College, is written by Dan Harmon.  Harmon is a depressed genius. For some strange reason, when writers who are social misfits, lonely and/or depressed create something brilliant, it is just so much more fascinating. Harmon’s writing is extremely layered; it’s complicated but everything makes sense in a smart and silly way. His writing method that you can read at Wired is intriguing. Try applying this circle to the next episode of Community you watch.

Before this show, Dan Harmon made gag videos and when Community was temporarily benched, the overwhelming response bought it right back. It makes me feel all warm and hopeful inside that while millions watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, there are at least a few thousands who do watch and love an intelligent comedy.

There is little to be written about Community and its meta-ness that hasn’t already been written, and short of simply gushing and going, ‘Oh My God, Oh My God,” all I I’m going to say is that it just blows your mind. These are a few small things in a brilliant series that I think proves that Harmon’s brain is full of birds, fluff and ping pong balls.

1. Troy and Abed in the morning!

Easily the coolest thing about Community, Troy and Abed’s fake morning show, as well as their-end-of-episode gags. In Season 1, the two of them do voices for a bunch of people studying on the other side of a glass window. That was the simplest of their gags that got just crazier, weirder and fun.  (It’s hard to be Jewish, its hard to be Jewish in Russia yo)

2. Magnitude

Magnitude, the one-man party has appeared in not more than four or five episodes and is a classic gimmick character. He wears glasses and a sweater vest and his catch phrase is pop-pop. It’s also his political ideology.

3. THIS.

4. The Christmas episode.

An entire episode in claymation with music and magic thrown in? Why not?

5. Chang puns

Guilty as chang-ed, Is there any room in this pocket for a little spare chang, Chang the subject, subject speak the changuage, I don’t chang a lot of chicks, makes me so changry, changlorious bastards…..

6.  Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dean.

Jim Rash is the coolest dean, ever. Incredibly pathetic and optimistic, he has obsessed with making Greendale a ‘real’ college. He has a Dalmatian dog fetish. Personally, I love his name. Kind like good alcohol meets an allergy.

Oh, also, he likes to dress up.

7. Michael K Williams

OMAR ON COMMUNITY!

8. Pop culture references

As someone who references awful sitcoms, dramas, Hindi soaps, reality shows in regular conversation with voices and background scores, Community really speaks to me. And I’m sure I don’t even get all of their references. Apart from crazy asides, they even have complete episode themes that pay homage to pop culture, like the chicken mafia, dungeons and dragons, the paintball episode, Abed making a film on Jesus, etc. But the fact that Dan Harmon pays back to all television, including some we will downright lie and never admit to watching (cough cougar town cough), is just superb.

On a side note, I have very few friends.

– Sharanya

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So filmy: Hating on Bollywood is so last season

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So filmy: Hating on Bollywood is so last season

Plot 1

Bad boy meets good girl. They fall in love. Turns out she has cancer. They set out to fulfill her wish list. Tears all around.

Plot 2
Girl is in a coma. Boy moves into her house, is haunted by her spirit and eventually falls in love with her. She comes out of the coma and can no longer remember him. A touching montage later, they meet and she remembers him again. Tears all around.

Plot 3
An underdog football club is about to be shut down. One last game to win a championship. A new coach. Star player. There may be hope after all. Bribe, betrayal, we’re already bored. A change of heart. Together, they win a final, nail biting match. Tears all around.

Oh, Bollywood. Where everything goes and cliché is King (Or Don). People fall in love with ghosts, a ragtag sports team wins a big trophy and Arjun Rampal wins a National Award for having a sum total of three expressions. I can already see you thinking Oh here comes another Bollywood rant. Well, let me tell you something, this is not what it sounds like. (Kahani mein twist! Twist! Twist!).
Two out of three of these plots are movies that came out of shiny Hollywood. Numero uno, a bad boy-good girl-killer disease love triangle is the Mandy Moore starrer, A walk to remember. The second, Just like Heaven, has the depressed, really hot Mark Ruffalo bringing back Reese Witherspoon’s memory of her coma adventures just by touching her. The last one comes from closer home. Dhan dhana dhan goal. The one with Arshad Warsi? No? It had John Abraham. No? Billo Rani. Yeeeaah, I see realisation.

Bollywood haters amaze me. “Hindi movies are unrealistic, they’re not as good as English movies and they’re filmy.” Do you even know how annoying you sound and where did that term even come from? Filmy. Paintings aren’t paintingy, music isn’t musicy. And, well, they should be. Films must be filmy, they can’t make writingy films, now can they?

Cinema is cinema. There is good cinema and there is bad cinema. Resources and money can only do so much. You could argue that the ratio of bad movies to good movies in Hollywood is lower than it is here. But that doesn’t change the fact that they make a lot of movies that are complete turkeys too. Let me give you a couple of examples: 2012. John Carter. Every Kate Hudson movie ever. Sure, they do some genres better than we do. They have The Bourne series (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum). We have the Khiladi series, (Khiladi No. 1, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi.) I hear Khiladiyon ke Khiladi mein chupe hue Khiladiyon se Khelne waale Anari No. 1 is in production. But we also have Kahani, Udaan, Paan Singh Tomar, Dev D, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey. We are definitely an evolving audience. We are proving, albeit slowly, that it is a good story that commands viewership, not where it’s made.

I’m not defending bad Bollywood here. I mean, the only way I can defend cinematic masterpieces like Bodyguard or Housefull is if I say, “But at least it was better than hammering a nail into your own eye.” I kid, of course. The nail-eye thing sounds like so much more fun.

And you bashers, before you say that you’re too good for Hindi cinema, think a little bit about how annoying Laura Prepon’s character was in How I met your mother. “Salt. So bourgeois.” Yeah, you’re that person, only less hot.

– Sharanya

That can’t be right: Magic realism and the practical mind

That can’t be right: Magic realism and the practical mind

I just finished re-reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved a couple of days ago. Try reading a book you’ve studied as a text and with each word you relive whole chunks from your life from that time. Suddenly, a damp Bombay breeze turns into a sudden blast of dry Gujarat heat and the leaves outside your first floor Bandra balcony could be the leaves of the Neem tree outside Lecture Room 14, St Xaviers College, Ahmedabad.

As with all good books, I discovered new things and also had different reactions to old things, but one thing hadn’t changed. At 24, I’m still as baffled with the concept of magic realism as I was when I was 19. I found it difficult to digest then and I find it difficult to digest now. Truth be told, my mind is a little too rational to not balk at it.

If the term had to do with just fantasy, I would understand. I love and appreciate fantasy in fiction, but it’s fantasy. It’s supposed to have witches and ghosts and tall geniuses called Dumbledore. But magic realism, or what I understand of it, is a technique used in fiction that brings the decidedly unreal into the real world and turns a blind eye to the impracticality of such a bold move.

Take Beloved. You’re reading late into the night. Phrases like “The silence boomed about the walls like birds in a panic,” are jumping out at you and bludgeoning you with their sheer brilliance. The characters are so believable, their pain so fresh, their small joys so real, their circumstances so tangible and WHAM, just to fuck with you, there’s an element in there that can’t possibly be. Stop! your mind screams, this can’t be! And yet you know that it is so because, there really is no other way. Beloved, as those who have read the book will know, was taken from a real life story. In the Vintage International edition, Morrison explains in a foreword that she wanted the central figure to be “the murdered, not the murderer, the one who lost everything and had no say in any of it.” So that’s how we get 323 brilliantly crafted, breathtakingly poetic pages about a dead baby girl living as flesh and bone with the very mother who smashed her skull against a shed wall and killed her.

“Swallow it,” Morrison seems to be saying. “It’s their reality and it’s yours too.” But in my reality, the dead remain the dead and the living remain so until they’re dead and then new people are born and they live until they die and so on. I mean, that’s just the way it is.

 

Marquez’s One hundred years of solitude goes the same way. It’s perfectly acceptable for Prudencio Aguilar, dead, to converse with Jose Arcadio Buendia, alive. None of the other characters cares one whit. I mean, good god, didn’t One hundred years of solitude have enough characters in it already without Marquez bringing back the dead ones? To say nothing of course, of equally bizarre occurrences mentioned in passing, through the rest of the book.

And it’s not just ghosts either. Hands up if you re-read several passages from Salman Rushdie’s Midnights children, while you were reading it the first time. I thought so.

But forgive my confused rambling. Thus far I’ve mentioned three of the some of the greatest writers known to the modern world. Just goes to show that there’s some amount of genius involved in using magic realism, or any technique as bold, in literature. If I can’t get my head around it, it certainly isn’t because it’s badly written. A poor writer couldn’t possibly get away with it. Not that they don’t try. A certain book called “One night in a call centre” which is about exactly that plus some high handed preaching, has a scene involving a phone call from “God” to salvage a plot clot. Yep. Deus ex machina in the 21st century. That’s just how we IIM graduates roll.

Shudder. Sorry, that last paragraph left a bad taste in my mouth. Let’s rewind to where I say that Morrison, Rushdie and Marquez are three glorious beacons of unadulterated brilliance and have therefore with said brilliance, knocked mediocrity out of the world. Also they’ve earned the right to use as much magic realism as they please in their work. And though I may struggle with wrapping my unsophisticated head around it, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

– Sheena

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with

Six dead people we wouldn’t have a drink with (Even though they’re awesome)

Gandhi

He ousted the British using only abstract concepts. He basically said “Nyah Nyah” to every school bully who shouted “You’re gay for not fighting.” He was the man, a beacon of hope, a figure of inspiration, a leader of men. Would we grab a cold one with him? Er, we already have plans. We’re cool with the Mahatma being a vegetarian, but he’s the judgmental sort of vegetarian which means that every bite of chicken would go down with a reproving lecture on foods that give you “a happier existence”. And oh he didn’t drink (we were getting there, smartass) which means his “cold one” would probably be a ….water. Not cool.

Helen Keller

Sharanya;  Hi Helen, karaoke?

Helen: xxxksjdhsjdhf

Sheena: Huh?

Helen: jhsdfhuygudf

*writes on hand*

Disturbing.

TS Eliot

Lit students everywhere: Five words: Tradition and the Individual Talent. Yep, there’s that familiar pang of annoyance. This is not literature, that is not literature. Hey Mr. Choosey-beans, come on man. TS Eliot was brilliant but he’s also a snob and incredibly hard to please. That works well, if you like your drinks with a big side helping of I’m-more-intelligent-than-you-sucker. Which we don’t.

John Lennon

Lennon forms a quarter of a big old pie of super awesome. He is a treasure. But as a drinking buddy, he is the equivalent of that nauseating guy that just got dumped and won’t stop talking about it.

Imagine there is no buzz; it’s easy if you try. Nothing to drink or dance for, John is sappy and a bore. See, thinking of drinking with Lennon is making us rhyme. We hate rhyming.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Charming. Creative gold. Well-dressed. Impeccable prose (almost poetry) to his credit. He knew his cocktails. And he definitely knew a thing or two about partying, yes, yes. Oh, but his choice in women. He’d probably babysit his all-over-the-place-but-engaging-wife right in the middle of my “Nick Carraway was the perfect flawed narrator” speech. Damn. So close.

Sylvia Plath

If you like running all around a bar trying to stop a crazy lady from breaking bottles, jumping on a bar and throwing fries in the air, go ahead and ask Sylvia Plath for a drink.

P.S – If she suggests you go oven shopping, run.

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