Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to Mumbai - reloaded

So I did it. I went to the city that has been lingering through my dreams for years now. And I decided to talk about Mumbai and not about India, because this has been a travel to a a city dear to my heart for now.
I will take things chronologically...I had a superb Lufthansa flight - business class (awesome start for such a trip). We landed (I was accompanied by my best friend who had no interest in India, but she was afraid I could be kidnapped...yes you can lol) and once we stepped inside the terminal the craziness began:
-gazillions of eyes staring at us (hence I covered quickly with a shawl my daring cleavage)
-white teeth smiles and even gentle caresses when handed or taken from my fingers various official papers; :D And it wasn't as bad as it might sound
-when finally took the luggage, I went outside and tri-gazillions of eyes staring... oh boy...here we were, looking for my friends who were supposed to pick me... Weirdly enough I did not panic, but I inspired the heat and the smells...and only then I used the phone...
-hugs, kisses, emotions, recognition, locked eyes, smiles, laughter, tiredness and here we were in the car going to the hotel. And ladies and gentlemen drivers from Europe... Sorry but you are just users of some devices called cars. This is not driving what you are doing. Mumbai driving is The ULTIMATE driving...rules respected when absolutely necessary, rough streets, a continuous ti, ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti from thousands of cars, an uninterrupted flow in which vehicles (of all sorts) and pedestrians are passing by each other within less than half of centimeter, without stops and without accidents.
-I stayed in 2 hotels (Sahara Star and Novotel-Juhu Beach) and I am not going to make any travel reviews, but I want to send a big thank you to the cleaning teams and to their "Is everything ok, Ma'am?". I felt so pampered. :) Also a special mention to the pool and restaurant team in Novotel - you guys were so human and endearing.
-I didn't take pictures...I know...what a crime... I didn't go to the most famous landmarks...again what a crime. Instead I felt the streets, with good and bad things, I exchanged money in a bank - awesome experience that took 6 hours :D :D :D, I went to the big malls to see the new middle class on the rise, I went on Diwali and saw Ra One premiere in an Indian cinema (what else could I have asked more), I went to a spa where I let myself wrapped in saffron and massaged so badly that bruises in certain places could have given wrong ideas to anybody, I went to Mannat - SRK's house, I drank a splendid devil coffee specialty in a CCD coffee-shop, I went to Linking Road and saw my friend bargaining with the most stubborn sellers (successfully), I crossed Bandra Sea-Link 4 times, I went to Gateway of India and bought small shiny, very shiny, too shiny trifles, I bought a green salwar kameez and apparently I looked good in it, I ate in a restaurant (questionable for any European taste) the best pav bhaji in the world with my hand (and no, I didn't die and I wasn't sick as many expected and wished. :P), and I would do it again any second, I saw some slums, I saw people sleeping under bridges, I saw mountains of garbage, I saw the new constructions, but also the neighborhoods with old colonial architecture, I went on Marine Drive and visited the Aquarium, and I saw elegant cricketers in the field. I was fortunate enough to be able to see from my hotel a full day of Chhath Puja festivity, right there on the beach. Hypnotic incantations, divine music, lights, firecrackers, dances, clapping and thousands of people purifying themselves in the sea. Now I know where Andheri, Santa Cruz, Bandra, Navi Mumbai is. And I also had a first hand experience of Mumbai police in action, when my friend's car was picked up and we had to go and recover it. :D

All of these must be seen, felt, heard and smelled. Photographs cannot depict the spirit of 24 million people living in a city that almost cannot grow anymore. Photographs speak zilch about the highest level of tolerance in the world to my knowledge.

I dreamed of Mumbai and I was right to love Mumbai even before I saw it. Because above all, Mumbai meant for me the people I met and the love that I felt exuding everywhere. Thank you Jay, Natty, Sunil, Shakti, Tush, Vishal and everybody else who came to see me even for a couple of hours, thank you to all the people who called me just to hear my voice, thank you "bosses" from the rickshaws who always told us that "haivei" (aka high-way) was straight ahead, no matter where we were... :D Thank you Arjun for deciding to stay among us, even if this time we could not see each other. Thank you beautiful and patient ladies from the banks and receptions, thank you shoe sellers for helping me put the boots on as if I was a queen, thank you to all security guys and gals at malls, hotels and public institutions who checked everybody for bombs (never felt so safe in my life), thank you Mumbai for giving me such a warm welcome.

I will come back to see you and this time to criticize you as well, as you deserve the best. :)
Love, M.

PS. And no, I didn't see any cows in the streets. (this is for all those with stupid prejudices)
PPS. Did I mention we had 11 days with 36 degrees? Eat this dying of cold Europeans.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Buffy or our vampires related prejudices

This is a post dedicated to those who haven't actually seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) or to people like me who tried couple of scattered episodes and they didn't understand anything or simply dismissed it, being a thing with vampires and a blonde chick who kicks their asses.

Well let me put it shortly. Buffy is not about vampires, witches or demons. Buffy is also not about the good beating the bad.
Buffy is about heroes with flaws and monster with hearts. Buffy is about friendship and the bad things we do to our friends, just because sometimes we take them for granted and forget we have to listen to them, too. Buffy is about the painful process of taking the right decision and about forgiveness. Buffy is about redemption and sin. Buffy is about betrayals. Buffy is about impossible love and normal love, which sometimes we have the tendency to despise as being too dull. Buffy is about books and the powerful knowledge they bring. Buffy is about family life with all its ups and downs. Buffy is also about the pain of losing the dear ones and watching helpless how they go into nothingness.

Who would have expected such depths from a TV series with a non-generous title...perfect for our harsh mockery? Guess what? Give it a try and you will rediscover basic emotions. You will rediscover the pleasure of an incredibly well woven story. You will fall in love with the humor of the situations, you will love and hate vampires like Angel and Spike (interesting names, no?), you will giggle with demons like Clam or Anyanka, you will fear the awesomeness of a witch like Willow, you will fall for the goofy, big-hearted and valiant friend like Xander and you will suffer along with Buffy's hurdles to keep balanced a world at peril.

Simply enjoy Buffyverse. You will thank me after that.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Adventure pack

So I have this soft spot for adventure movies as they remind me of childhood and of times when everything was possible. This is why I ended up with such a pack when I was at home in spring. On Monday I decided it is high time I plunged into fantastic deeds and awesome worlds. The outcome? Close to disaster and here it is why.

1. Beauty and the Beast (2009) - I have always loved the story, so I was preparing myself in a cozy position on the couch with a cup of hot tea, ready to let myself impressed by the beauty who will turn the monster into the prince. Bang... First of all, the Beauty was dressed in a mini tight leather skirt with an even tighter leather blouse, pushing up 2 impressive boobs and permanent erected nipples. Because of the nipples I managed to see the pouty botox full lips only toward the end of the movie. I watched it fascinated as this is the kind of production that should be studied by future movie makers in the category "NO - THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO MAKE A MOVIE! THIS IS HELL!"

2. The Season of the Witch (2011) - I think Nicolas Cage was in a coma when he signed to play in it. I still have to mention the dead monks, killed by black plague, turned into zombies and crawling on the walls and the ceiling of the monastery like some small coal dark bats, resembling for couple of seconds with small bombers (?!) making weird maneuvers. Awesome! To be seen only if you are drunk. Dead drunk.

3. The Phantom (2010) - Apparently this is the first of a mini-series, but I aint gonna search for the rest. If I want heroes who can fly, I watch Superman. If I want heroes with high-tech, indestructible costumes (Phantom's one is colored in purple!), I watch Batman or even better (Iron Man), if I want conspiracies I read Dan Brown. They tried to pull all of these together and the result is a non-convincing melange. On the plus side stays the good-bad Abel Vandermaark, who is ok as a dual character.

4. Sanctum (2011) - Explorers inside underground caves. Lots of water. Lots of deaths. Even more water. Play the first 5 minutes, so you can see the most impressive entrance in a cave, though if it is for real I am sure you will find it on youtube as well.

5. The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2011) - I had the feeling Nicolas Cage made this movie on the same sets where no 2 above was shot. Same hair-cut, same clothes style. I guess these 2 came in the same offer. You know... 2 in 1. In the morning, you are a knight, in the evening you are a wizard. Try if you are a die-hard fan of Monica Bellucci and if you like iron made eagles flying.

6. The Seven Adventures of Sinbad (2010) - LOL. Double LOL. Triple LOL. Man...All of the above are diamonds, jewels. I would not spoil for you the pleasure of making acquaintance of the worst flick ever. But I cannot help myself and I have to describe one scene. Imagine some guys on an island, who are thrown in the middle of the ocean as the island turns to be a huge whale. After drifting for a while they are picked by some dinosaurs-birds and brought to another island to be eaten. In the next 5 minutes the guys pop up with things like torches, matches, lighters, lanterns and believe it or not even a GPS. Muahahahahaha.... I do not understand the 3 stars rating on IMDB. It is beyond my rational process.

7. True Grit (2010) - Western is not among my favorites, but I like Jeff Bridges, so I accepted this small derogation. Not a bad idea, as I enjoyed it for a one time watch. It's a simple and enjoyable story. Well played by everybody, and I have to give credit to the Coen brothers who this time delivered a decently directed product. For rainy afternoons.

8. Eight Below (2006) - Awwwwwwww.... This is a cuteness alert movie. With dogs. And not any dogs. Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. If you do not hate snow like me, you will cry and clap. You will weep and yell. You will melt like an iceberg because of global warming. Beautiful and touching. Recommended for animal lovers, but also for people whose sensibility did not disappear. Thumb up.

To be continued, as the Adventure Pack still has some more offers in it. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cinematic hotchpotch

Last week I saw several new (sic!) movies and revisited some old ones. Here are my feelings and read without any worries. No spoilers as I am not a classic reviewer. In absolute random order I present you:

1. One.Two.Three (2008) - Leaving aside the fact that it is a sort of a stealthy copy of Blame it on the bellboy do you know that state of mind when you watch something, but you do not hear or see anything, being too engrossed in thoughts? Well, this is the main advantage of the flick. Perfect meditation inducer. I do though remember something from it - the family name of the 3 main characters - Laxminarayan. :D

2. Umrao Jaan (2006) - I have not seen the more acclaimed version with Rekha so do not jump on me. And no matter what people say, I loved Aishwarya in this one...in spite of the fact that her beauty is so intense that you have the feeling you watch a PC animated character. The songs, the colors, the lyrics, the slow rhythm still touched my soul. I thought 5 years later a re-watch will annoy me, but it was not the case.

3. 127 Hours (2010) - Danny Boyle did not disappoint me. He managed to make a good movie with perfect first 20 minutes, a disciplined artistry in the middle, well played by James Franco and incredibly intense 15 last minutes. I suffer of claustrophobia and this movie did not help me at all in taming this condition. But it is worthy of my appreciation and thumb up.

4. Anjaana Anjaani (2010) - A bitter sweet romantic comedy (?) would be a Hollywood teaser. Two strangers meeting in a suicide point. The rest you can easily imagine. The kind of movie perfect to waste time with it on a Sunday, when nothing else is on TV, all your friends are out of town and Internet is not working...oh and yes, the room with the books is accidentally closed and the key is lost.

5. Australia (2008) - I avoided it all this time as I am not a fan of Hugh Jackman (I checked it 3 times his name to be sure I spelled it correctly). After exactly 35 minutes the folder called Australia suffered the Shift Delete combination. Boring even if you are doing your nails or straightening your hair, while it plays.

6. No one killed Jessica (2011) - A film with unfulfilled dramatic potential. I need a second try to understand whose fault is. Otherwise interesting and touching at times. But it fails to wake up in you the frustration and the anger which were obviously targeted. Recommended anyway as "something else".

7. Guzaarish (2010) - Man...10 years ago I would have poured tons of tears on this one. I mean come on... sexy paralyzed guy and a married nurse (beautiful like an icon) who has been taking care of him for more than 10 years, loving him secretly... Oh my God... But life is a bitch, and apparently I became one, too. No tear... Sigh... Give it a try though if you are in a gooey mood.

8. Kaminey (2009) - Watched it again (proper high quality version this time with a proper translation) and I loved it. Perfect combination of action, darkness, adventure, clumsiness (yes clumsiness), slight sick humor, bad...really bad interlopes and a good ending. Music brilliantly embedded. Lessons for life presented in a non-invasive manner. With an honest heart I can say it is one of the best Hindi movies of the last 10 years. A small masterpiece in its genre.

Now go and watch something and keep the world of movies alive. :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

And here we go again...

....with more random thoughts on random movies...

Megan is Missing (2011) - documentary like movie about teenage girls kidnapped and most probably killed (in the end) by Internet "lovers". Some pretty disturbing images and also a very bleak image about a generation without purpose, ideals and any firm guidelines through the life.

The Little Fockers (2010) - definitely the worst of the series, but this does not spoil the pleasure of watching Robert de Niro, Dustin Hoffman (this time he is learning flamenco in Spain to become a sex magnet...LOL) and Barbra Streisand.

The Rite (2011) - when I watch such movies, I always find only one explanation. Actors like Anthony Hopkins do need their permanent pocket money. Even so he is doing his best as an exorcist priest, but also as a possessed priest. O_O

7 Khoon Maaf (2011) or Seven Murders Forgiven is a Hindi movie, which I dont know exactly whether I liked or not. Still it weirdly reminded me of fantastic realism and I guess this is its strong point in my opinion (other critics dismissed the movie exactly for this reason). It is definitely a brand new cinematic experience for Hindi cinema, one pleasant for the eye. Pryanka Chopra, in spite of her already schematic and branded talent, is growing as an actress and I congratulate her for choosing such a role.

Aetbaar (2004) - Oh boy... All I can say is that Bipasha looks much better 7 years later. At that time she was a doll without expression or rather with bad expreesions.

Anji (2004) - a Telugu movie which tells a similar story to Indiana Jones. Yes you are allowed to laugh. I did all the way, especially during the item songs. Involuntary humor. And I dont care it won National Film Award for Best Special Effects.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Borgias - a hit without a doubt

Another brilliant series released in 2011, out of which we could enjoy only one season. Again I started watching it with reluctance as I read too many books about this topic in the past. And because of this I was already set-up with the clicheic image of a cruel, blood thirsty, incestuous and poisoning family. And I wasn't in the mood to see such perverted gore. Still as always my love for movies said: "Woman, give it a try!".

And what a surprise I had. An incredible Jermey Irons who seems more refined than ever and who will remain in the history of TV series as the funniest, wittiest, most ubiquitous and vicious Pope. He is like an apricot - ripe, mellow, sweet with a bitter, tough and cyanide kernel inside. I have to give the credit to the screen writer, too of course, who knew to choose the best lines, but beyond this...the easiness of Irons to put such an artistry at work is magnificent.

The rest of the cast is also intelligently chosen and I want to highlight Michel Muller as King Charles VIII, who is crazily hilarious. A thumb up with all my heart and an out-loud laugh, which did not cease, even though several days have passed since I finished it watching.

Do not miss such a splendor. I am sure you will come back here and you will say I was right.
PS. Music, scenery, atmosphere, camera, editing... Oscar worthy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tudors and other games...

Topic number 1

Well...I managed to see them all... The Tudors - 4 seasons... in one week and a half. Most probably one of the best historical TV series ever made. In the beginning I was so reluctant... I saw so many movies/plays about Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII...that I said to myself...why should I give this a try?

After a few slow paced episodes I got caught. For good. Yes the actor has nothing from the real Henry in physical appearance, but oh boy...he is a treat for the eye and soul. The story stretches the facts as they were narrated by the chroniclers of the time and often it gives some fancy explanations, but each and every image is a masterpiece (music, scenery, direction, script)...

After I saw the last episode, I read for almost 6 hours everything about Henry's England. What a joy and what a pleasure. This is how history should be taught in school.

Try it and then search the portraits of his six wives and let yourself fascinated by their lives and destinies.

As a conclusion - Anne Boleyn wasn't a slut at all. Neither a witch. Just a very intelligent and educated woman, who did not realize unfortunately how hysteric and paranoiac her husband, the king, could be. And that costed her head.

PS. I do not understand why Henry considered Anne Cleves ugly. By comparison, Jane Seymour and Katherine Howard (who were considered beautiful) are ugly like hell. Just check their portraits and you will see. But I guess men's tastes in women will always remain a mystery.

Topic number 2

This prolonged weekend I finished The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins. Phewww...what a ride. Ate it in 2 days all together. It is supposed to be a sci-fi for juniors...teenagers. The style is simple, without fancy stuff. Characters slightly unbalanced. But the narrative thread simply keeps you turn the pages and sometimes skip lines just to see what is happening.
This is again another proof that people, no matter their background or education always yearn for stories, for tales to be told and heard... It is written in our DNA.
Recommended even for those who smirk.

To be continued...

Friday, June 10, 2011

This and that...

As I said some days ago on Twitter, I will share some of my thoughts on some books and movies I have been dealing with lately.
Because of my chaotic life in the last 3 months, I could not focus on serious stuff...so I grabbed anything at hand without thinking too much about quality, fame, must read/watch, etc. So here they are in an absolute random order.

1. Marian Keyes - Rachel's Holiday

Supposedly chick lit from what I heard, the book focuses on a young woman who is a drug addict. She lives a sweet life in New York, doing nothing, going to parties, pouring all kind of drugs in her, then leaving for Ireland in a rehab center. Everything beautiful, but unfortunately the character seemed surreal to me. Maybe because I am coming from a country where normal people coming from normal families work their asses to move on from one month to another.

2. Craig Russell - Eternal
Crime fiction with a slow pace and lots of good information about Hamburg. It also made me check the most famous mummies in the world. The killer had some pretty gore MO. Entertaining reading. But not for beginners into thrillers.

3. Philippa Carr - The Black Swan
PS. No connection to the movie. And because I respect any writer, I say this is a very good material to be used for translations. You know...you learn the basic - Give me that, go there, the sky is blue, etc. Brilliant from this point of view.

4. The Killing - TV series (Season 1)
Saw 10 episodes on a Sunday. I couldn't move from the couch. A mix atmosphere of Twin Peaks and Harper's Island. Finally a police woman who is not attractive at all and makes you like her for her coldness and apparent normality. Gloomy weather all the time. Depressing music and story. Awesome.

5. Fringe - TV Series (Season 3)
Guys who are doing Fringe are from another planet so help me God. Watched all the episodes (20 something)in 2 days and a half. Didn't eat much. The episode where the characters turn into comics heroes - pure genius. After X Files, the best Sci-Fi touched series ever made.

6. Black Swan - the movie
This was a thing made for Natalie Portman, who is doing her job perfectly. No question, no doubt about it. The climax image when the black swan gets to life is so clicheic that it can blind anybody. Music - superb. Schizophrenia and the path of the artist toward perfection were supposed to impress me. But nope. All in all a good movie, but trying to throw at me an art movie subject dressed in an alluring dark, mysterious commercial blanket did not manage to convince me.

To be continued as always. :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A "must see" list of Romanian movies

First of all let me tell you that Romanian cinema, like all the other Eastern European cinema schools, knew its glory during communism years. Most probably because of censorship, creators were forced to find brilliant metaphors, enough cryptic to trick the censors, but enough suggestive to be understood by the mass audience. Romanian cinema is not an easy one and it requires an open mind, a great deal of knowledge in art cinema and a very high level of sense of humor.
After 1989 just a few movies could be compared with what was made before that. They will be listed, too as the directors deserve an applause for their efforts to adapt to an all of a sudden freedom of expression.
I will not make any comments on the movies and I will simply list them in an arbitrary order, letting you discover in time, the most incredible actors you have ever seen (without exaggerating, some of them can really tower Hollywood big names).

*Actorul si salbaticii (1975) - (Actor and the Savage)
*Adela (1985)
*Atunci i-am condamnat pe toti la moarte (1972) (Then I Sentenced Them All to Death )
*B.D. series. (B.D. intra in actiune, B.D. la munte si la mare, B.D. in alerta - Brigade Miscellaneous Steps In, Brigade Miscellaneous in the Mountains and at the Sea, Miscellaneous Brigade on the Watch)
*Balanta (1992) - (The Oak)
*Bietul Ioanide (1979) - (Memories From an Old Chest of Drawers)
*Cei care platesc cu viata (1991) - (Those Who Pay with Their Lives)
*Cel mai iubit dintre pamînteni (1993) - (Earth's Most Beloved Son)
*Ciuleandra (1987)
*Cu mîinile curate (1972) - (With Clean Hands)
*Cuibul de viespi (1986)
*De ce trag clopotele, Mitica? (1981) - (Why Are the Bells tolling, Mitica?)
*Faleze de nisip (1983) - (Sand Cliffs)
*Filantropica (2002) - (Philanthropy)
*François Villon - Poetul vagabond - (François Villon: The Maverick Poet)
*Glissando (1985)
*Ilustrate cu flori de cîmp (1974)- (Picture Postcards with Wild Flowers)
*Ion: Blestemul pamîntului, blestemul iubirii (1979) - (Ion: The Lust for the Land, the Lust for Love)
*Moara cu noroc (1955) - (Mill of Good Luck)
*Morometii (1988) - (Moromete Family)
*Nea Marin miliardar (1979) - (Uncle Marin, the Billionaire)
*Nunta de piatra (1972) - (Stone Wedding)
*Occident (2002)
*Operatiunea 'Monstrul' (1976) - (Operation Monster)
*Osânda (1976) - (The Punishment)
*O Vara de neuitat (1994) - (Unforgettable Summer)
*Padurea spânzuratilor (1964) - (Forest of the Hanged)
*Padureanca (1987) - (Forest Maiden)
*Pas in doi (1985) - (Passo Doble)
*Prin cenusa imperiului (1975) - (Through the Ashes of the Empire)
*Rascoala (1965) - (Blazing Winter)
*Reconstituirea (1971) - (Reconstruction)
*Rochia alba de dantela (1989)- (White Lace Dress)
*Secretul lui Nemesis (1985)- (Nemesis' Secret)
*Senatorul melcilor (1995) - (Snails' Senator)
*4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile (2007) - (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
*Tanase Scatiu (1976) - (A Summer Tale)
*Train of Life (1998)
*Ultima noapte de dragoste (1979) - (Last Night of Love)

I'm not saying these are the all-times best Romanian movies, but once you get through them you can have an exhaustive image about what Romanian cinema means and a green light to all the other jewels that are hiding. Bookmark this blogpost and come back and let me know your opinion once you have seen some of the above movies. :) Enjoy.