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November 18, 2007

Review: American Gangster

Movie image
American Gangster
4 out of 5 stars

The story begins with the death of a great man, whose life inspired a certain ‘nobody’ to become ‘somebody’. We enter the story at the time of the rise of Frank Lucas – an aspiring gangster (Denzel Washington), and the fall of Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) – a divorced police officer desperately clinging onto his dignity in the time of overwhelming corruption in the society. The two are both great at what they do, and it’s only a matter of time before they two meet and the audience learns a valuable lesson about guns, drugs and how to run a successful business.

For a film that has ‘gangster’ in its title, this one, though 18 rated in the UK, has little bloodshed, sex, drugs or even foul language. In fact, it portrays the daily life of a gangster mastermind as the running of a gentleman’s club: routine, peaceful and almost quiet. It oversees Lucas’s every step in his gradual fall from top to bottom of his game while Roberts’ persistent efforts lead him to the truth behind the drugs, the gangs and the cops.

General reaction: when is this story going to culminate already???

General feeling: it’s missing something

Sum up in one sentence: A great story that could have been told with much more passion, cohesion and intensity, and in slightly less time.

November 03, 2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Sadly, a rather pointless film that conveys more a message of indecisiveness between the film-makers rather than anything meaningful at all. The film is missing organisation and focus and looks more like a splash of interpretations (arguable facts) rather than a lined-up narrative. The random inserts of “artistic symbolisms” made absolutely no sense. The tired use of candles and lighting bolts was truly revolting. The film had also managed to make the defeat of the Spanish Armada look like it was a one man’s show by Sir Walter, who, in his own turn was portrayed as what can only be described as a Jack Sparrow wannabe, swinging on ropes and diving into the sea. It doesn’t come close to the British production of Elizabeth, although rather spectacular and with a few impressive costumes.

General reaction: What????
General feeling: Disappointment

March 07, 2007

Summing it up…

1 out of 5 stars

The World is Flat can be described in a single no less eloquent sentence: “The dummies’ guide to the modern world for those who just woke up from a 10 year long coma”. There is a very simple idea in this book that is being blown into a massive waste of paper. The idea is that the world is now ‘levelled’, which is really an altogether different concept to ‘flat’, but given the Americans’ love for shorter words it’s only fair he calls our world flat. What he really wanted to say (but failed to) was that the world is increasingly interdependent (too long a word for him to spell), making the balance of powers a very tricky thing whether in the arena of politics or economics and trade. The very word Flat is being repeatedly raped by the author to fit into every other sentence in any shape or form he finds suitable: flattened (v.), flattening (adj.), flatness (n.), flattener (n.).

This book is painfully long and painfully detailed in places that matter least. The author sees just about everything as symbolic, dismissing the fact that god is a dude with a sense of humour. Not every sentence has to sound like the revelation of your lifetime. There are audio versions of this book that can serve as very soothing bedtime tapes as they just go along like a story told. Worth listening to for the comic effect, but please don’t do the author the honour of buying this crap.

August 22, 2006

Introducing Chinese Art

Just when I thought the Cultural Revolution had killed all forms of art in China, big or small, I ran into the busy populace of the re–emerging generation of modern Chinese artists whose works are undeservingly overlooked. Here are some websites where those truly significant (to my mind) works are displayed:

Amelie Art Gallery for Chinese contemporary, neoclassical and folk art

Red Gate Gallery for innovative, westernized Chinese art

Beijing Tokyo Art Projects for a mixture of Japanese and Chinese modern artworks, including architecture


Courtyard Gallery for contemporary Chinese photography

March 05, 2006

Something to share

4 out of 5 stars

It's simply different from what I usually listen to. It's different from itself in that each song is a seperate entity. I like it!

Mama don't smoke,
That much dope,
Don't you worry about me.
Mama don't smoke,
That much dope,
Don't you worry about me.
I only get high about twice a day,
It helps to keep my blues away.

February 04, 2006

A Review on a Book That’s Not Out Yet – America Against the World

America has always been against the world, hasn’t it? Well, in the eyes of an extremist, such as myself, it has. This Monday I had the luck to be present on a discussion of the book America against the world, which is to be published this May. The writers of this book initially held the aim of studying the global response to globalization. Americans love polls of opinions. That’s what democracy is about, isn’t it? So in the process of questioning random people from 50 countries across the globe, the researches stumbled upon the fact that there was another phenomenon, much more worrying than globalization. It’s called the anti-American movement. They didn’t wait long to turn that into an ISM word, so before we knew it, we were discussing anti-Americanism.

Anti-Americanism is fun and widespread. It’s trendy and catchy. We were shown a big number of rather interesting graphs and figures, all proving that the world is now hardly bearing with America. France and the UK were among the countries where it was no longer fashionable to chase after the American dream. The love has been declining quite tremendously from year 2000, plummeting rather significantly after the 9/11 and even more drastically after the Iraq invasion. In 2003, only 1% of Jordanians still favoured the US in some way; the rest of the Muslim world was also much unimpressed.

When asked about the ‘What’s your problem, man’, most respondents said they had issues with American policies. The truth is, not that many people really know of the policies existing and practiced by the States. So what they meant to say is ‘they had issues with the American government’. Fewer people thought of American people as carrying evil and promoting intolerance. However, a staggering amount of respondents gave up their last hope in Americans (as people) after they’ve re-elected George W. Bush. Disappointed they were indeed. In the words of the presenter himself ‘As the Daily Mail put it ‘How can 54 million people be so dumb?!’’. Before you go on and argue – it’s a rhetorical question. As Justin Timberlake has it ‘oh, oh, the damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leaving’. The president was elected and there should be no arguing.

When the researchers settled down to find the answer to the ‘Why, oh, why do they hate us so much?’ question, they came up with a bewilderingly stupid answer: Americans are different. I’ve heard this ‘we are different’ crap so many times it’s starting to gently pour out of my ears. Every single country is unique. Americans, due to the prolific work of the Hollywood, have long successfully imposed their ideology on the rest of the world. Besides, being tolerant as I am, and as fashion dictates it nowadays, I’m willing to accept any kind of ideology. So, what Americans believe in is much tolerated, if hardly respected sometimes.

Another explanation provided for the un-love was the religiosity of the Americans. Apparently, over 95% of Americans take guidance from religious organizations and count with their opinion. Oh, bollocks! So now I have to blame god for all the wrong-doings of the Americans?

Third excuse: Americans are patriots. Oh, now that’s just not smart. I’m sure students around the world have experience Patriotism a la Chine and had a taste of what united Chinese students look like when someone is attacking their country. And yet people aren’t hating the Chinese, definitely not for their patriotism!

What I personally have against the States is (1) their pseudo-democracy, (2) their blatant propaganda (I mean, just watch that Bush’s speech recently: how many times have they applauded and how much of a show it was?), (3) their hypocrisy (probably above all) and (4) Bush’s accent.

Going back to the responses to globalization: the researchers have found out that the ultimate ‘Land of opportunity’ does not rest on the land of the US anymore. It’s like the geographical poles not matching with the magnetic poles of the Earth. The British are looking enviously at Australia, the Chinese have their mouths watering over Canada and the Pakistani, surprisingly, are queuing to get into China! The grass is always greener on the other side. And only the Indians are still looking up at the US and seeing buckets of green currency in their dreams.

Despite the huge number of rather peculiar statistics (which I absolutely love!), the essence of this book strikes me as another biased PR book to fix the image of the US in the eyes of its fleeting lovers around the world. I mean, why would they call it ‘America against the world’ and not ‘The world against America’ if they were to objectively speak of the phenomena? Victimizing self is just poor taste and obtuse tool to win an argument. I know it’s considered bad manner to speak of a book that’s not been published yet, but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. I do promise to read the book if it’s ever out and do a proper review of it. However, with my biased extremist views I think I’ll hardly change my opinion on that book.

P.S. My dad said that a famous dead Russian journalist’s dad (sorry about that, was just being precise) said that only the stupid and the ignorant could hate America. If so, then I am the ignorant one. Oh, and I don’t hate America, like the anti-globalists don’t hate globalization. I should travel to the States some day and do a review of the country.

December 06, 2005

Capitalism and other kids’ stuff

Writing about web page

Paddy Joe Shannon is the author of the film Capitalism and other kids’ stuff. The film is about how capitalism is abolishable. And how people should 'think outside the frame of capitalism' and start considering alternative ways of living and making sense of human society and human coexistence. The end of the film looked very cocky and propaganda-ish and less educative or academic. But the arguments in the film didn’t sound entirely stupid and dream-like. But the truth is, it takes time for any kind of social change, let along abolishment of capitalism, starting with ‘imagine no possession’. And though Lennon may say ‘it isn’t hard to do’, I’m sure he was only referring to the act of imagining, not the act of actually building human society anew starting with abolishing the assets. Another thing that I found rather dubious was that the whole social ‘revolution’, although making sense and sounding good, was built on assumption that people weren’t greedy. And if humans can be trained into thinking that ‘enough is enough’, then it’d still take centuries for a change of ideology and adopting a totally new value system. The author claims that post-capitalism doesn’t have to be a step back and mark the end of civilization as we know it; that people can engage in active production by doing their constructive hobbies, i.e. what they like and are good at, and thus benefiting the society each in his/her own way; that the government doesn’t have to be centralised, and that politics is really quite easy and anyone, even Bush, can do it. So as I said, it all sounds right, they are all arguments that I find hard to argue, and yet there are so many more counter-arguments to make that dream sound obscure and unreachable.

October 05, 2005

Pop Art or Pseudo Art

Dear Andry Warhol,

I'm sorry, but you suck. Now who doesn't suck and does produce pop art that 'reflects modern life' are the Russian pop artists, whose works are being exhibited simultaneously with those of Warhol in the New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. I walked thru the large rooms of Warhol's exhibits and nothing had caught my eye. Large, colourful images, blurred, painted over; enormous pictures of cans of food, pistols and flowers. Everything there was annoyingly obnoxious and phony. I don't suppose people walking along with me found it exciting or enlightening either. They all looked bored, but polite nevertheless, polite enough to produce a sigh of amusement automatically, after every five metres of space they covered. We rushed thru the exhibition, confused and annoyed at the high price for the real rubbish.

But just as I thought I'd wasted my time and friends' good will to entertain me, we found another exhibition hall with a fine collection of art works by Russian pop artists. The second I walked into the room I gasped. It was amazing. Not Monet-amazing, but more creatively amazing. Everything was about the tiniest details of life; enlarged, as pop art dictates, but bearing much more meaning, full of humour and ironies and generally more creative than Warhol's canned food. There were bits that awfully resembled Warhol's, but others were great. There was a glass sculpture of a bull couple copulating; there was a wooden composition, representing a number of viewers sitting in a half empty auditorium and watching something, each with a different emotion written on their wooden faces; there were other fascinating things, like a big wooden well and other funny things from life.

Just because it's pop art doesn't mean it has to be rubbish. Thank god garbage hasn't become popular yet.

September 23, 2005

Sigur Ros

4 out of 5 stars

Songs that don't mention love, broken hearts or celebrate the dominance of men over women deserve my respect by default. Sigur Ros sings about hell knows what – they sing in Icelandic, a language unknown and hence exciting for me. Here's a little quote to get the taste of Icelandic major concerns:

Hullaballoo, I Rushed Down To The Lake, A Savior.
I Prepared A Ship And Said A Little Prayer, For I Was Scared.
The Sun Shone And The Lake Flowed.
Sunflowers – Sunflowers The Flies Die.
But Today I Will Save As Many Flies As I Can.
In Each Hand I Carry A Net – Determined.

Yes, flies. People are concerned about saving flies, rather than unappreciated love and other similar bollocks. Their music is very close to nature, and not just in the lyrics sense. It bathes you in the refreshing sounds of forests, it takes you to glide over the surface of oceans and tells you a story in the meantime. It's harmonic and causes you to sway and hum along. My attempts to sing along in the most epic parts failed miserably, as I'm unable to read Icelandic.

Sigur Ros is, perhaps, the second major item of import of Iceland, after Bjork. If not – it shuold be. They experiment with dissonance, taking notes in places one doesn't expect a noise. The vocalist doesn't posses an impressive or outstanding voice, but it goes with the music well. Their music, on the other hand, can be disappointingly similar, but didn't Coldplay crush your dreams and kill your idol with their X&Y as well? They have a unique style to their creations and should be highly appreciated for that.

April 11, 2005

The Buddha of Suburbia

Not rated

I've only just finished reading the first chapter of this book. It's cutting edge satiric and at the same time shocking. Having watched the film My Beautiful Laundrette, also written by Hanif Kureishi, I can say that I recognize the theme of race and sexiality set back in 70's when it was all an entirely new and unknown field. The multicultural intergration is discussed with a warm feeling of irony, as opposed to the familiar voice of oppressed ethnic minorities. The new sexuality is looked at with the urge to discover new dimensions of human relations. It doesn't speak of lust, but more of curiosity and eagerness to new experiences. Here are two absolutely amazing quotes that reveal the theme of the book.

Men and boys got erections just being in the same room as him; for others the same effect was had by being in the same country.
...I knew it was Daddio because he was crying out across the Beckenham gardens, with little concern for the neighbours, 'Oh God, oh my God.' Was I conceived like this, I wondered, in the suburban night air, to the wailing of Christian curses from the mouth of a renegade Muslim masquerading as a Buddhist?

I will do a proper review of this book when I finish reading it. Reading this book (up till now) has been a truly refreshing experience, entertaining and at the same time contributive to my degree.

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