Tracks: John Curran

Summer of 2014 was a little too slow for movies this year. My hot summer day was missing a cold theatre seat with a cold Pepsi drink my in my right hand and hot popcorn in my left hand and a decent film. I was looking for a film that had desert in a movie or a film that dealt with an adventure.  I browsed around Google tabs before I found Tracks playing by a theatre in Downtown Houston.  There was an evening show, but I didn’t have that summer sensation on an evening, so I booked a ticket for the next day for a matinee show.

As always, theatres with independent films were nonexistent with humans. I didn’t mind this at all. There was no sign of a human expect for me.  I developed this nostalgic feeling of viewing a film during summers when my cousin Jay would take me to see a Hindi film during a matinee show.  When I left India, I didn’t get to see Hindi movies or Hollywood films in a theatre until I was in high school. There were occasions where I was taken to see Hindi movies when they were half off either in Fun Plex or the theatre on Bellaire back in late 90s.

While scanning through Tracks, I observed a similarity between 1970s and 2010s: a rapid increase of cameras when someone does something “different.”  Maybe this wasn’t a similarity, but a fast-forward to a future, where humans are occupied with phone cameras.  Tracks may look like another version of self-discovery through unaccompanied journey film, but it lacked an excitement in the film.  Mia Wasikowska plays Robin Davidson, who walked across the Western- Australian desert in late 70s accompanied by camels and a dog. Rick Smolan, a freelance photographer, and a chatter-box, works for National Geographic magazine accompanies Robin every so often. Tracks is not like Into the Wild. Robin’s journey is meant to be deeply personal, but ends up interrupted by photographers.

Tracks had beautiful visuals.  Mia is perfectly casted in this film and so is Adam Driver. Both are a mismatch.  John Curran, director of Tracks, avoids the heavy-cliché journey film. It isn’t meant to be Eat, Pray, Love, or Into the Wild or the latest film with Reese Witherspoon, but meant to accompany her journey with Robyn all over.  Robin Davidson still remains a mystery for both audience and Rick Smolan. 

Fury: David Ayer

On a lousy Friday evening, nearly 9 p.m., I received a phone call from my friend Raj, but I had missed it as I was cleaning my room to kick start my weekend with less than usual chores. I had not heard from him in over a year since we all sensed that next few early years of our careers would pull us even farther apart. So we synced our schedules for a dinner with few friends the next day since I was already heading to bed.

Saturday morning was brightly lit by the arrival of fall season. I woke up as early as 8:00 and went downstairs to warm up some milk for Chai. While the milk and chai were forming together, I grated some ginger and added it to the tea pot. And then I inserted a country-style white bread in the toaster oven after taking out a small jar of Mango jam from the fridge.  After the chai was ready to drink, I sat around the kitchen table, eating a toast over some mango jam and thought how nice it would be to just lounge around rather than going out for a dinner. The thought crossed my mind few times when I was running errands. I was becoming lazy and I had no desire to meet up my friends.

The clock was ticking at 6:00 in the evening, and I was out for some Mexican food at Las Mantanas in Katy just five minutes away from where I lived.  Raj and I agreed on this on this place after exchanging few text messages. I had been to this place a few times and their food was delicious.  After a decent meal, we cleared our throat with some water.  We went on about films and then one of us looked up a time for the film Fury since it was recently released in the theatre.  

When I took my second history course during freshmen year in college, my history professor asked us to watch a film based on an event in history. And write an essay about how accurate the film was representing history.  Although, I can’t recollect that particular film I had written over, but I do remember that most history films least bit accurate. I can’t recall if I had seen the trailer for Fury, but decided to go for the thrill. I was on a budget when it came to seeing films, but Rajan, our other friend decided to pay for our meals for that night.
The first scene of Fury was a Nazi on a white horse remotely appearing on the screen by each second. There were tanks burned to the ground as the horse walked by, but the quality of the production was cheap. It was damp, dark, and ugly. David Ayer, the director of Fury, known for writing films like Training Day and The Fast and Furious. His directorial debut Harsh Times had mixed reactions from critics and audiences. I have never seen the film.  Fury had a fantastic star cast including Brad Pitt ( Don), Shia Labeouf (Boyd), and Logan Larman (Norman) invading the most screen time.

Fury is about the final days of World War II where soldiers are overtaking Nazi tankers for survival.  Fury, according to Ayer, was an authentic portrayal of Sherman tanks in Germany. Ayer had done years of research, including talking to survivors and German and Jewish families.  War is brutal. Apologies from soldiers from either side cannot be expected when you’re faced with a decision of supporting it or not. 

There is a scene in Fury where Don discovers a woman gazing through her window. He takes Norman with him.  The women was protecting and hiding her cousin underneath the bed. Don asked both of them to make tea and prepare a meal. Just before the scene, a doctor came out with both of his hands up in the air and asking not to attack the building they were in. One by one came out and they were mostly kids as young as 10 fighting a battle for SS.  Norman also held similar views of being forced to fight a war. Norman, a Baptist, was essentially looking for a clerical position in the battle was asked to join Don’s tanker team. Norman was placed in his first battle between two tankers, during the battle, a SS solider came out of the woods and asking forgiveness. He showed pictures of his wife and kids.  Don asked Norman several times to “man-up” because he had trouble killing a glorified SS solider.  

Fury opened last weekend. It was filmed entirely in Britain. Fury is directed by David Ayer and stars Shia LaBeouf, Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal

2014 belongs to Jack O'Connell

Jack O'Connell, a perky British actor, better known as Cook from E4's Skins had a terrific 2014. First, Starred Up then '71 and now Unbroken. 

1: Starred Up
2: Unbroken
3: '71

This year has been a massive disappointment in films especially the first 8 months of the year. We've had a few good releases, but none of them really attracted me to a movie theatre. However, there were few exceptions such as A Most Wanted Man, Gone Girl, Tracks, The Grand Budapest Hotel, X-Men, and Rover.  

A missing father in middle and working class families.

Fall had finally arrived. I had officially brought back all my winter clothes as Texas weather decided to chill off for an early October evening. I put on a medium size, gray sweater and hopped on my sandals to a grocery store nearby my house. I was in aisle 15 in HEB. Aisle 15 was for toothpaste, and hygienic products.  Next to aisle 15 is 16, filled with stacks of baby products. I over hear a conversation between couple and their two children.

“We are out of diapers for this week,” said a mother, in a concerned and yet authoritative voice “You can’t go out to a bar with your buddies.”

I went to the aisle they were picking out the baby diapers. Mother, a white woman, 30+, skinny, hasn’t slept for days because her baby is still crying in the cart seat. Father, an over-weight, also white, looked older than his age, but not exactly sure what his age was. They had two girls. Both were less than 5 years of age.

As the mother tried to find her coupon stack out of her messy purse, the father walked away and told her, “I’m going to grab a six pack.” The mother looked at him in disgust.

Immaturity is celebrated.  When I had moved to the states for a better education and a quality life than the one I had India, there was a lack of a male figure to look up to in my household. The first few years in Katy, Texas was met with consistencies in yellow (moong dal) kichidi for dinner. I had developed a certain dislike for yellow kichidi. My father, however, always had his six-pack every evening.

Middle class fathers in the suburbs were defined as the providers, who were often seen as independent and authoritative.  However, their image had been diminished. After the World War II, fathers were distanced from their spouse and children in suburbia because there was a separation between home and workplace. Middle class fathers had a strong communications bond, emotional ties and fulfilling sexual desires with their wives. The mutual respect between father and a child was transparent. The living room was also the essential male dominated. It was known as a space for relaxation for fathers. It was a symbol of male authority. Males had their own personal space.  

Working class fathers violated the Tarzan principle. They were often hostile towards their wife and children. According to both, middle and working class fathers, women were to stay home in the kitchen or procreate for a bigger family. In the 21st century, not much has changed and women are still labeled as stay home mom or otherwise “soccer mom.”  Working class fathers were unable to manage their daily life let alone managing finances.  In television shows, working class fathers were very unattractive and lazy. Working class father were also seen as unemployed or menially employed, oafish and inept. They cannot keep a job for very long. Working-class fathers were unhappy about day-to-day life.  Middle class fathers enjoyed their daily routine and weekend outings with their family, but in a recent case, more and more middle class father tend to choose to go out with their buddies and chose a lifestyle that doesn’t attain much significant growth in career, sexual desires and children well-being.

A father’s main goal is protect his family from any harm.  Middle class fathers enjoyed time with their children. They are more affectionate towards their wife and children. Middle class fathers in the postwar were seen as successful. They were reasonable and achieved positive relations with their spouse and children. However, over the years middle class father and working class father are becoming more alike or becoming one. Middle class fathers have evolved as a buffoon. Children disregard any act of respect, maturity, or even decent behavior in a social platform.

The more I look at the family I grew up in, I can relate mostly to a working-class family. They worked every day including holidays and sometimes evening. At the age of 25, maybe I could say I had grown up mentally, emotionally, and physically. I always shook my head in self-derision. But some traits were wholesomely missing from my life. I have been into banter with friends or family if they asked me about a current girlfriend or marriage. These topics were merrily just another phase for me. Young, fresh college graduates had given up on a stable career as well as a full-filling relationship during the economic downturn. Last summer before my graduation, I had already dreamed of a career and while my big boy shoes were just fabricated at point in time I was well aware of a nonexistent career, but I followed my own decorum. Many students and classmates I talked to during interviews and career orientation had been given written and verbal advice from their mentors/father. In any case, I only had my cousins, but there was only so much they could do. I was on my own. Eventually, the puzzle was put together during June of 2014. I was talking to my friend Yurie and how much of a desire I had to start my own family once I mentally knew I was ready.

Present families are much more chaotic. Working class fathers or husbands are contrary story. Families are becoming two-dimensional: either too much governance over their life choices or too little.  Misbehavior goes without a punishment. There was a correlation between socio-economic status and positivity of depiction. The middle class fathers across the time look very similar to working-class fathers in many aspects. Working class father are argumentative. Mr. Simpsons in The Simpsons for example was often depicted as a buffoon. They departed substantially. Middle class fathers are more and more like working class fathers. Working class fathers often made mistakes, and were prone to develop get “rich quick schemes.” There was a reduction in power in men across time. They were still supportive and intimate.  However, current father figures are deteriorated.

Middle class fathers have also changed in way where they share childbearing, children activities, putting children to bed and consulting them on emotional and physical issues, and disciplining their children. Working-class fathers are depicted as “loud, emotional and static” and Middle class fathers as rational, intelligent, soft-spoken, and responsible. However, middle class fathers and working class fathers have now combined these characteristics and all of them look more like working class fathers.

Middle-class fathers were now looking more like working class fathers. They are unstable employment, mismanaged finances; relationship between father and children had become non-existent. They are often depicted as buffoons, unintelligent, and poking fun at domestic duties. They do not try to reconcile their differences. Middle class and working class fathers were far apart, but they work together in generation Y.

Rich middle class families now monitor education and emotional behavior of their children. For example, they live in a gated suburb, consisting predominantly of White, and minorities such as Indians and Asians were included in dash. Black and Hispanic families were missing in neighborhoods and schools. Rich middle class fathers interact with both his children and spouse. Over the few decades, fathers are not as involved with mutual interaction between their children and spouse. Working and middle class fathers do not advise their children or support them when they are in difficult need.

There is a father and mother missing in every middle and working class family. Much hasn’t changed from 50s or even the 80s. However, middle class is a zoo with buffoons, who enter a bar with a group of mates and hammer on a weekday. Politicians disregard any improvements for families. While I have gone through two stages of working and middle class father, there was never a substantial difference between the two.  I am the first generation of an Indian working class family to have a decent career in my household. There were praises, but at the same time lack of independence is constantly frowned upon. A conversation on having an apartment was shot down. For once, I had finally arrived at a conclusion of being the best father of any social standing when it happens. 

Hera Pheri

A dual day at work makes me very exhausted, so I decided to take my phone out of the first time and watch a movie on YouTube at work on a rainy day in July. The reason I decided to watch this was because I sort of missed the innuendo Desi jokes. I saw Hera Pheri back in 2000 at a movie theatre on West Belfort Cinema with my cousins on a hot summer day.  I’ve loved the movie ever since. The sequels to the film did not live up to my expectations.

There is a very dark Desi side of me that is completely hidden away from everyone. I’m not saying I’m still fresh off the boat, but I still connect to my culture by being social with Indians, watching Hindi films, and lastly, Indian food. I remember once at a small gathering, a friend of friend mentioned the film Hera Pheri and I was amazed by how many of them couldn’t understand any of the jokes. You literally have to grow up in India or be completely Indian to actually understand the norms, clichés, and hilarity of this film. There is something very Desi about Hera Pheri. I was missing India. The first time I visited Mumbai was back in 1998. I fell in love with the city instantly. Mumbai is NYC and LA combined: film industry and financial district of India. Mumbai is very diverse and with a dash of native Maharastrians.  Missing India happens quite often. It has been exactly fifteen years since I last visited.

Hera Pheri uses a ton of “Mumbaia Tapori” idioms. Hera Pheri is infused with tongue-in-cheek dialogues and brilliant comic timing of Paresh Rawal. He is a gem in Hera Pheri.  Hera Pheri is about three men who receive a phone call on a drunken night. They are told by Kabira (Gulshan Grover) that he has kidnapped their granddaughter. This is when all the Hera Pheri (Money Business) starts.

The film is quite enduring. Most people wish their debt would vanish one day and live in a mansion; however, this film teaches a valuable lesson about taking a short-cut in life. It will eventually catch up to you.  The film holds a special spot for me. It cheers me up anytime I watch the film. Hera Pheri’s dialogues achieved a cult status among the audience.  Paresh Rawal’s perfect timing adds a great deal to film’s appeal. I have officially lost number of times I've seen this fim. 

Hera Pheri stars Sunil Shetty, Akshay Kumar, Paresh Rawal, Tabu, Om Puri, and Asrani in supporting roles.  Screenplay by Neeraj Vora and directed by Priyadarshan.

Some of my favorite dialogues are:

“Kutriya saala, dekh ker number dial kar.”

“Utha le re baba, utha le… mereko nahi re, in dono ko utha le”

“Devi ka Prasad mandir mein milta hain.. garage mein nahin.”

“Teen Takle 1212.” (this one is my favorite ~888)

The Year I Turned 26!

A quarter of a century plus one, birthday celebrations are very odd for me since I had not grown up celebrating my own birthday with family or friends. As I was looking back from what has changed so far from last year till now has a lot to do with having a full-time job. Before my birthday, I had made a promise to myself that I would quit my retail job and find a decent internship. All of my goals had fallen into a place. I was satisfied with what I had achieved. Every year I make a list of short-term goals and see if I can at least thrive to achieve them, and most of them I did. I even bought a Canon 7D which took more than 5 years.  After my internship had ended, I eventually quit my retail job that had drained me physically, emotionally, and mentally.  As I was preparing to graduate, I started looking for a full-time offer. I have had multiple interviews at several big firms, but I lacked confidence, GPA, and experience. I once drove to Dallas on a rainy Friday morning and hoping to score a deal with this interview. The firm had several locations in Texas. I had interviewed with this firm before I was parting with my internship. I had 6 interviews in total and still no offer. Eventually, I settled for a part-time job at eyeglass retail store for few months. I became desperate, anxious and insecure of how uneasy it was to find a job.

I went back to school to take few more classes to keep myself occupied. I owed a student loan. Pay-check to pay-check, my bank account didn't accumulate as much as it should have, but I started to care a little less than usual.  Early January, I was convinced I wanted to work for an Investment Bank. I had conducted several interviews and one boutique had called me twice for an interview, but no offer came through. This rejection made stir into a direction I would eventually fall right into. I grew worry of finding work, but my motivation to become a filmmaker is what delivered me to keep trying.  The drive to become successful made me more aware of my choices.

On an early spring Saturday morning, I was schedule to work at 1PM. I stared at a white blank paper hoping to write my two-week notice to my current job, but was undecided to submit it. Few days later in March, I received a phone call from a company I had applied at. My desperation to find a job meant to apply at every possible place. I didn't have a set list of companies neither did I have an industry I wanted to work in. I had applied to this company according to the school career site back in January. I was contacted by the manager to come in for an interview. I had already three interviews schedule same week. However, this wasn't the end, but a beginning. My decision to accept the offer after a five minute interview at this consulting firm confirmed that I can achieve more than I have. I had graduated with a double degree, first in the family, and also first in the family to have a job in the corporate world (not sure if that’s something to be proud of). It was a beginning of another new goal I had set for myself.

On the first day at work, the office manager had told me I was only working here as an intern. I was back to square one, and I had to make another commitment to find a job. However, the incident with the office manager revealed that I had in fact, a full-time offer here when I broke the news of being hired at another place with my direct boss.  In other words, there was no was transparent communication between the hiring manager and my boss. Few days later, I was called in the COO’s office asking me decline the offer and she also asked me all the benefits of my new job. The client I’m working for is audits this consulting firm. She said, “____ has laid off a lot of people and I’ve received many resumes from the partners.” I was a little setback by this comment.  I nodded my head. She later responded with another firm question but with not question mark, “do you have confidence.” At the same time, I knew I lacked no confidence, but this was right out asking me if I had confidence to ask for supplies at work, to have spine if something went wrong in the finance department.

A month after I got my own desk at work, I was confronted by “filing lady” because I had accidentally asked one of my co-worker to give me two journal entries from the filing room. She went off on me because this was the same journal entries I've asked before. Obviously, she kept a trace of it. She came right next to my desk and yelled like a savage. She was old, but doesn't make it appropriate to yell at anyone for any reason. This company didn't have a defined decorum like most limited liabilities or corporations have.  Perhaps it did, but no one practiced it.  Almost 90% of the employees knew each other here either through direct family relationship or indirect friendship. Turnover rate at here was very high. I remember the CEO reciting his dwelling speech at fifteen year anniversary they celebrated on their new floor they recently leased because the company was growing. He sort of gulped when he said, “we have the lowest turnover rate.”

 Most employees complained here about their pay and work-overload and the constant cheating of paid time offer. They worked over-time, but never saw the penny they billed the client on their paycheck. One the main reason my boss was still working as a contract employee was because he works over forty hours and if he was a salary employee he wouldn't get paid for over-time (I’m still waiting to get paid my over-time since the company has forgotten to pay me). I could go on and on about how horrendous it’s here, but it’s not as bad as my retail job. I try to work over-time, however, there isn’t a day without thinking about what could I do when I get home: write more blogs, watch more movies, have meaningful discussion on movie forums. Also there isn't a day that goes without thinking about packing my bags and leaving for California so I could work in the industry.

It had been a year and I noticed a similar change in the people that came to Under the Volcano bar with me. The crowd was a complete change from last year, not only my friends had been replaced, but also the number had decreased significantly. Since last year, I had decided to leave most behind for good reasons. Next Monday is my last day at current job and I start my new job on Wednesday next week. I hope I like it!  

Very Good Girls: A Rare Half-Baked Story

After my grandfather passed away, I decided to watch a film to escape for an hour or so. I surfed a topic on Reddit and invited myself to watch Very Good Girls. I streamed Very Good Girls on a Saturday night hoping to escape, but brought me back to harsh reality. Very Good Girls has a cheerful yet touching vibe.  Despite the flaws in the film, Very Good Girls managed to grab my attention. Everyone is busy these days. We are constantly updating our lives on social media, or engaged in social media, but what we have forgotten is a simple communication between humans.

Immensely talented Very Good Girls: Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen give real portrayals of ambitious and restless girls from Brooklyn. Summer before first semester of college, both Lily and Gerri are determined to lose virginity. The movie has a quite somber tone including death, virginity, and unstable relationships. During a daytrip to the beach, Gerri (Olsen) knocks down an ice cream sign few blocks away from an ice cream stand handled by David (Boyd Holbrook). David, a low-priced Ryan Gosling, Ice cream vendor and an aspiring photographer from Staten Island sets his eyes on Lilly. Both start dating without telling Gerri, who happens to have fallen over David. 

The film has many unnecessary plots and characters; however, it does have an importance to a trustworthy friendship that lacks in society these days. Very Good Girls is a directorial debut by Naomi Foner, mother of Maggie Gyllenhaal & creepy middle-aged man’s (Peter Sarsgaard) mother-in-law in Very Good Girls (similar resemblance to Elizabeth Olsen). Very Good Girls soundtrack by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley is absolutely amazing!