Oozing sex… and a lot of blood too

If you ever thought Mahatma Gandhi could never spout four letter words even in your dreams then watch Sexy Beast. This is Ben Kingsley‘s movie. He spouts four, five , six… letter words at the speed of the roadrunner in the Wily Coyote series. Boy, did this movie wake me up. It so happened that I ended up sleeping on most of the movies I watched last week. Didn’t even remember the damn names of half the films. Sexy Beast has a title that screams B-Movie. This was a classic – not a B-movie classic, but a proper A-grade classic.

This movie is a study in the art of hiring. HR guys out there, watch this for the manner in which Ben Kingsley builds up the tempo to go all out and convince a former con to join him for one last bank job. Kingsley is charming in a most menacing way, sadistic, and depraved way. He requests politely, then demands that his request is met, then forces the con to accede to his demands. When this does not happen blood is shed, but without giving away too much the job gets done in the end.

Kingsley deserved to be nominated for the best actor category rather than best supporting actor. Such was the power of his short but lasting performance in the movie. The rest of the cast is good. Ray Winstone as the con disturbed by Don Logan (Ben Kingsley’s) visit to his retirement paradise in Spain is spot on. So too are thw two beautiful women in the film. This is a Brit gangster drama/thriller that brings back memories of the ’70s sinister Brit gangster flicks like Get Carter (Michael Caine). Watch it for Ben Kingsley.

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The Delhi Freakin’ Marathon

Marathons especially Indian marathon events are freak shows. I was watching the Delhi Marathon, prominently sponsored by a mobile company, on one of the news channels yesterday and what do I see – half naked men running and shouting in the hope of promoting a mens magazine, weird looking characters supposedly running for gay rights, someone running for cancer, another one running for chimpanzees, yet another running for people with half a brain, another for llama rights… Ok so I made up the last few, but I swear when you have all sorts of characters turning a sporting event into a circus without stunts then you are sure to demand your ticket back.

The freaks interviewed were irritating to the core. Celebrities even more so. You had team leads taking their team on the run and waving flags. I am sure quite a few of them would have been cursing the bastards for waking them on an early Sunday morning and making them run 5-10 kilometres or so. You had news anchors gushing about a power couple who coudn’t even complete running a quarter of a kilometre. I also wonder how the marathon organisers allowed people to run around with all sorts of garbage on them – some guys ran with huge condom costumes, some ran in gorilla suits, some in bathing suits – you really wish you were far from the maddening crowd.

I watched this freak show for a while on TV. Why did I go on watching this? Curiosity. There is this strange human tendency to view cheap stuff that gives you a kick when you realize that there are mortals lower than you. That’s the reason we love B-movies, slasher movies where guts spill out in virtually every frame and creatures that look stand at the size of the empire state building while snarling at the world around them. Cheap freaks. Cheap idiotic freaks. Pah… TV seems to have thrown some of the most irritating freaks of late. Commentators, actors, tv serials… Indian TV sucks. Thanks to Star World and World Movies and the other English channels for somehow maintaining sanity and balance on screen.

The Fall of Dr. Lecter…

How the mighty have fallen even before they set off on their career? Confused? Well I certainly was when I went through the first few scenes of ‘Hannibal Rising‘ that played on a movie channel last night. The movie is intended as a prequel that explains Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s transformation into the ‘monster’ that he is made out to be later in life.

Where Silence of the Lambs gave us what I consider one of the greatest villains of all time in Dr. Lecter, ‘Hannibal Rising’ destroyed that perception in the fist few scenes of the movie. Almost halfway through I was wondering whether I was watching Karate Kid or Three Ninjas Hit Back set in the 1940s. You had this young and earnest (too earnest i say) German actor trying to emulate Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal and dump in standard characters who follow the same old quirks – Japanese woman (who’s life centres around orientalism and some mysticism), former Nazis (caricatured as unrepentant ruthless killers), well I can go on with the cliches. This movie stank of cliches and caricatures.

Wikipedia’s entry on this movie explained that Thomas Harris, an otherwise intelligent writer, had against his wish been forced to complete this book as the copyright owners of the franchise threatened to find someone else to take forward the Hannibal franchise. If ever there was an instance of corporate greed destroying art this was it.

Silence of the Lambs and even Manhunter (1986), the prequel, gave us Hannibal as he should be – intelligent, calculating, mysterious, with a murderous streak that always was backed by clear reason (without sounding like a ‘Death Wish’ vigilante). For me, Hannibal was a protector of class and intelligence, he loved a challenge and in turn a worthy challenger (as he saw in Clarice Starling). At the same time it was never easy to define him. Hannibal is a question mark that yo cannot fathom. Trying to understand Hannibal is like trying to pry the secrets of the UFOs, or the Nazca lines or whatever swallows up ships in the Bermuda Triangle. I don’t think Thomas Harris himself was confient of deconstructing what he had created.

A Psychiatrist by profession Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s ascent as shown in ‘Hannibal Rising’ was a pitiful attempt to explain every little quirk of this character. The explanations were too convenient and this is where the movie fails. Nothing is convenient in the life of Dr. Lecter or the people who surrounded him.

Now that I have flogged this movie, I guess it’s time for this franchise to retire. One, I can never see anyone other than Anthony Hopkins play Lecter. Two, Hopkins has made comments that have led many to believe that his days as Lecter are over. If that is so, leave the character alone. Silence of the Lambs and its far inferior sequels would be better off packaged in DVD stores and relaunched in aniiversary collections rather than creating new monstrosities such as Hannibal Rising.