The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wall Street, they say, is more addictive than any drug in the world. It isn’t even the money that is addictive. It is the surge of power, the adrenaline when you are making a bid, the rush of beating others… the game of making money is what is so addictive.

I was reminded of that strongly when watching The Wolf of Wall Street. Of course, we watched the Wall Street of the late 80s and early 90s. Right after the Black Monday of 1987 and before the Black Monday of the 2008. The period when all the Wall Street dudes thought they crashed, burned and were phoenixes that were reborn and they were Gods. Before the follies of their mega-billion investments came to bite them back on their cocaine-riddled asses. 

The movie, with the combination of Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio is everything that you think it would be. DiCaprio makes you forget that you are watching a man acting a part. You think that you are watching someone live it on screen. Better than any scripted reality show on TV today. And the story, created on the memoirs of Jordan Belford has all the seaminess and the thrill required for a Wall Street movie.

It makes you wonder if making money on the Wall Street is that easy. If you have followed the literature of Wall Street, you’ll know that it used to be that easy and you wonder why you weren’t born a couple of decades before. Every woman wanted to marry a trader or a banker… the ones with their $2000 suits and rolex watches and apartments in Upper Manhattan. Every man wanted to be that guy. 

Money… the counting and facts and figures has never been something of great interest to me. But even I can get drawn into a story about Wall Street. Because this is where fairy tales turn into reality. A poor, community college graduate can end up becoming a millionaire because he had the vision and was at the right place at the right time. 

Be it watching a movie like this one, or reading Confessions of a Wall Street Analyst, you feel that burst… that buzz inside you. You sit through the first 50 pages of Warren Buffet’s biography and you realise why the man got to the position he was in. You sit in front of your computer typing out a breaking story, knowing that it has the power to move worlds… and make or lose money for a lot of people… nothing can ever quite beat that rush. Which is the reason every business reporter… hell! reporter… sticks it out there for so long. To get that story that can shake the world and make you feel invincible.

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Soggy Old Cocktail

I wanted to go watch the movie Cocktail. It looked fun and was supposed to chilled out like Dil Chahta Hai, which was honestly the last good chilled out movie that Bollywood came up with.

And then the reviews started pouring in. The top review sites said the movie was awesome. That gave me a pause. And then Firstpost took the offensive and slammed the movie in 2-page long review.

I still haven’t seen the movie. But my trending list has been throwing up several articles, all similar in tone to, well, the FirstPost.

“Deepika Padukone’s character is portrayed the way vamps were in the 80s,” the article read. And then went to derail the entire movie. A friend who watched the movie said he would’ve rather spent an hour at home and watched one of the million teleserials and it would pretty much be the same thing.

Flash news, he claimed, you know the ending the minute you see Deepika Padukone come and screen and you can walk out the minute she runs into ‘the other girl’. Good girl. Bad girl. Roles defined.

I haven’t yet seen the movie, so I probably have no right to comment. But do we really want to see such a movie where the ‘bad’ girl gets kicked in her-too-late-sari-clad-ass everytime?

Every movie that has been touted as awesome has the same old cliched stuff. Somehow, Bipasha Basu’s Corporate comes to mind. So the woman’s a hot shot business executive, but then she pays the price by going to prison (almost).

Why can’t we make a movie without the moral judgement? Where a woman is a woman, regardless of what she wears or if she smokes or drinks, and the guy is a guy, regardless of how many buttons are open on his shirt. And the ending is not really decided by the fact the girl wears a salwar or a short skirt.

But then, I’m told this movie is a hit.

It is a little worrying.

Dirty Picture

Every now and then comes a movie that changes your perspective of someone who was alive, replacing that actual person in your head with the person who played the character. The movie makes you think, even as it makes you laugh.

Dirty Picture is one such movie. In the case of Vidya Balan, the second such movie. After Ishqiya, I cannot recall any other movie that has such an impact.

Did Silk Smitha live her life with the same careless attitude and rush that Vidya Balan portrayed? Did she score her roles through the casting couch? Did so many men influence her life or did she really forge the path she wanted by using whatever means was available to her?

My memories of Silk Smitha are vague. Not being a horny teenage boy in need for material, my interactions with her were restricted to recollections of adults discussing her latest movie. Then cable came and there were far more interesting, frothy Hindi movies to look forward to and the dusky actress never really made it into my living room.

Balan wears so many faces that it is hard to keep track of who she really is. The innocence of her face belies the sexiness of her body. The movie literally takes us through the years, as Balan puts on more weight, gains the look of someone depressed and addicted to alcohol and we never realise who the old Silk was till the movie gives us a quick and ruthless flashback.

Silk is perhaps the story of many women in the entertainment industry. Even if they were telling just the story of a single woman, there are so many truths through the movie.

Sex sells like nothing else does. (Else Katrina Kaif wouldn’t be a ‘star’ today, among others). Movies have one reason only – entertainment. True, there are intelligent movies, arty movies and all that. But majority of the movies are made to entertain. To make people forget what’s outside. To create a fantasy. And who better to create a fantasy than a woman with luscious curves?

Was she a victim or a champion? Even through her tantrums and diva-like attitude, Balan manages to keep you charmed and rooting for her through the movie. She changes so many faces… every nuance is calculated and poised for impact. Here is an actress who sinks into the role so deep that it is hard to differentiate the character from the actress.

The supporting cast seems rather demure and faded, even Naseruddin Shah. Or maybe Balan just overshadows them all. Surprisingly, it is Emraan Hashmi who has the most dignified role and carries it off with more elan than Tussar Kapoor in his polo neck shirts. Of course, it guess it would be bad PR for him if he didn’t manage to get a role even in his sister’s movie.

The questions in the movie are haunting… was Silk a true feminist? Or just a depressed female trying to live her life the best way possible. Of course, as the movie says, today’s shame is tomorrow’s hero. But the movie seems to portray her more of a hero.

It brings to mind a line I’d read in a book. “She was given three minutes onscreen and told to sell sex. She sold buckets of it.”

***

A friend wondered if Balan can actually make a comeback after this movie. Her weight gain, all the exposure and such.

Indian audiences are still quite hypocritical. They have grown to accept lead actress stripping for an item number but are they mature enough to see so much skin and then see her covered up and in another role again? Or will this be her defining moment?

We pretend to be respectable and honest, while what we really like to see is the other side. Is there more space for true actresses like Vidya Balan in our generation? The intelligent actress?

There are very few women in the industry who can carry off an entire movie by themselves. And she is one of them. Actually, I cannot recall another actress of this generation who can do that. Nope, not the Katrina Kaifs and Kareena Kapoors of this world. Nor Priyanka Chopra. But for most part, this is still a  male-dominated industry.

Female leads ‘retire’ after marriage. 44 year old men continue to play young boys. Comebacks of 40 year old women are scorned as leads, while men can make a comeback as a lead at any time. Movies are written for the men at any age, while the women are relegated to the background.

Even Hema Malini, who was supposed to be the queen, hasn’t managed a comeback. Or Sridevi. Or Madhuri Dixit, though I personally loved Aaja Nachle.

I certainly hope Balan can reinvent herself yet again. Would definitely want to see more interesting cinema.

Why Pirates 4 Is Not Savvy?

For starters, Cap’n Jack Sparrow does not think it is savvy. True story. He rarely says ‘savvy’ in the movie. He does not seem as drunk, funny and smart in the movie either.

The movie starts out funny, Sparrow is in chains and at the gallows as usual. But his escape lacks the usual flair. There are long moments in the movie where nothing really happens. There is a lot of conversation and it seems like the movie makers are trying to give Jack some ‘heart’ by adding the whole romantic perspective with Penelope.

Penelope Cruz makes a far more interesting, convincing and hotter pirate than Kiera Knightley did. She has the moves, she has the face and she looks good wearing a captain’s cap. But the whole movie just falls flat because it lacks the one thing that made the other movies in the series a hit – panache and well, fun.

There are far fewer one-liners from Sparrow… there is a lot less swaying… and he does not have a good anti-Sparrow character, which was perhaps Orlando Bloom and Knightley put together. They were straight, simple with a bit of badness… a nice contrast to Jack’s true but slightly twisted concepts of good and bad.

Oh yes… and the lack of weird creates. This is Pirates. We expect Davy Jones’ type of weird beards, Krakens, the witch Tia Dalma and dangerous expeditions… and the Black Pearl!

Instead, we had Black Beard, who did not even have a beard. All he had was a sword that wasn’t even shown properly. Davy Jones least made you feel creepy.

As for the other villain side, you have a bunch of Spanish soldiers who are intent on destroying the fountain for, wait for it…………………………………. religious reasons! Shoot me dead now!

The only interesting character in the entire movie were the mermaids. I wish they had taken over the movie.

Oh and what was the point of 3D?

Let’s not make this a serious message movie. Pirates is supposed to be fun. Let’s keep it on the high seas.

Sex And The City 2

Sex And The City 2

So I finally got around to watching the movie that was made after nearly a decade of the ‘SNTC’ drama.

I first discovered the sitcom years after it had concluded on HBO. I found it with some guy (straight) friends who were absolute fans of the sitcom. I had spurned it when it was playing on television stating that it was all about ‘women and their silly boyfriends and sex.’

But at the age of 20 and entering the field of dating, it was quite interesting to me and my friends. I got the whole series and would randomly plug in an episode.

Then the movie came out and I was a little stunned. To be frank, I barely even recall what that movie was about apart from Carrie getting married.

I found Carrie ridiculous and annoying and flighty, and her sense of style – appalling.

And then the second movie came and everyone was raving about it. Except the critics. And then many of the women I met too. But today, I finally pulled out that DVD I had gotten a long time ago…

Maybe because I was braced for the worst, it didn’t seem so horrible. There are one or two good moments in the movie. My favorite – when they all sing “I’m a woman, hear me roar.”

It was that moment what the entire sitcom had stood for – women’s liberation. Women talking about dating and ridiculous issues because they were important to them. Well, least that’s what it started with.

The rest of it is simply old. Not even boring. Just old. It has some relevant issues… the seriousness of women’s lib in the Middle East.

Watching a woman eat French fries through her veil, lifting it every time to eat a chip, Carrie comments “That’s a lot of commitment to fast food.”

The comment was funny. But it did made me wonder about why was it treated so frivolously? I mean it is all about the ‘desert mystique’ and all that shit but… it is like they picked the image off a tourist poster. The Souk, the desert and the opulence.

True, I’ve not been to Abu Dhabi but don’t they have special areas for women where they can walk around without their veils? It is just so AMERICAN… the way they disregard other’s cultures. There are Americans who respect every culture but there are also the rude, irritating ones. I wish it was Carrie who had been arrested instead of Samantha, who at least never pretended to be something she is not.

The movie is a really sad attempt to portray old women as young. True, it is also about the struggle women face in accepting their age. But it is done so shamefully, that I would hate to waste 250 bucks on watching it.

Yes, it is tough to have babies and bring them up. A woman does not want to be just a mother and honestly, that should be okay. That was one of the most honest moments of the movie – when Miranda confesses to Charlotte that she doesn’t want to be ‘just a mother.’

It is a question of identity and there is nothing wrong with it. Yet it is a question every woman faces these days – the distance between ‘mommy’ and ‘boss’.

 

Vanity Fair

I remember this mostly as a movie… the one I watched made by Mira Nair and starring Reese Witherspoon. Perhaps it was the casting, but Becky’s character is what I love. Becky was a woman who went after what she wanted, sometimes unscrupulously.

When I read the book, I figured Nair had somewhat glossed over some of the more unsavory aspects of her character. Even in the book, Thackeray does not dwell about those parts… he merely hints at certain things.

Yet, I like her. Of course, her relationship with her husband is portrayed a little more romantically in the movie. But why does one like an anti-heroine? She isn’t the villian. She is created so we can compare and like Amelia instead, who is virtuous and all that a woman was supposed to be. Instead, I found her Amelia weak and boring. A woman who stuck to what was supposed to be her role, wasted away for love of a man who wasn’t worth it, ignored the affections of a man who had been there for her constantly – all because society required it?

Becky strived for things above her position. Love, status, money and recognition. Why is it that when a man does this, he is called ambitious and a woman does it, she is called shrewd/scheming/cunning?

I loved Witherspoon’s depiction of Becky. Perhaps that is colouring my whole perception of Becky… but the question still holds.

 

The Social Network

One man changed the way the world thinks about socializing. He invented this little website called “Facebook.”

Perhaps it was his age, his youth or just the incredible social phenomena that made him so interesting to people. Or perhaps it was the incredibly strong way that he bulldozed his way into people’s lives and declared privacy was nonsense – a little statement that affected about 500 million people across the world, people who had shared the most basic details about their lives.

He is a curiosity. Not quite at the celebrity status of some other non-movie star people, but getting there slowly. And that perhaps is what makes the movie so interesting.

The movie could’ve been boring. It is all about a bunch of geeks writing codes and talking about stuff that doesn’t even come close to the realm of most people’s understanding. There were movies made about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs  – men who revolutionized the world of technology – but it barely made a ripple (Movie: Pirates of Silicon Valley).

But The Social Network is smooth, fast-paced and witty, with an awesome soundtrack.

Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Mark Zuckerberg, is so… perfectly Zuckerberg. The images of the two men are now so confused in my head that I have to wonder if Zuckerberg had the same vulnerable look in real life.

True, he is a geek, a nerd who has incredibly retarded social skills. I am torn between feeling sorry for the guy for his sheer need to be accepted and cool or feeling contempt for the way he threw away friends and perhaps stole ideas. Eisenberg projects such an air of vulnerability that you want to wrap him up and keep him safe.

We all heard about the famous “unfeeling” part of Zuckerberg. Indeed, much of the fallout of the movie has been negative. But I wonder why? Was it because of the privacy issues that arose from Z’s comments right before the movie released?

I had heard about the famous scene when FB touched a million users and everyone was celebrating but Z just remained in the corner. I did not know about the fight he had had with his best friend, who also was the CFO, right before the event. That puts a slightly different spin on things.

So here is this super genius geek who is really desperate to be accepted and goes about it the only way he knows because else, he is always on the defensive. Is that really Zuckerberg, I have no idea. It is a little hard to talk about the movie separate from Zuckerberg… after all, that is what makes the movie so successful.

Even if you do leave out the fact that this is a real life story (which you doubt for a minute when you look at those twins – whatever their names were – the epitome of blue-blooded, heirs of a family hunks!), the story is smooth and fast and gripping.

Justin Timberlake, who is perfectly cast as the slightly sleazy and smooth-talker Sean Parker, has actually even acted in the movie. It feels a little weird to see him act but then he fits that role so perfectly well!

This isn’t a feel good movie. The ending is ambiguous… left open perhaps to continue the story, for surely there is more of the story remaining. We leave Z at a point when the lawsuit is over, while he tries to reform his life as he loses his friend.

Who is the real guy? No clue. But is sure is interesting to watch how the single website where many of us spend half our internet time on, came about. And some glimpse of the man behind it.

Was it totally negative for the guy? Everyone who has interacted with him perhaps should’ve realized that he is a little socially retarded… a genius but not much for conversation, if that is the truth. Nobody will stop using Facebook if he is rude. And investors don’t care if he is rude. All that we really care about are the privacy issues.

Image. Image. Image. In a world where walls are an illusion, or something you write on. Seriously.