Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Willy Wonka-Just Imagine.

Meal candies and wonderous elevators. These two things stand out vividly from my fanatacial reading stints during childhood.Strangely enough, I found myself peppering my normal life conversations with casual references to both of these, like everyone else should but naturally understand them. “You dont need a kitchen!” i would reprimand my handicapped-by-bachelorhood guy, “all you need is meal-in-a-toffee to chew on instead of lunch”. “The what?” he would ask, immediately letting the phrase evaporate from his memory two seconds later.

“Charlie and the chocolate factory” had three great motivating factors going for it this sunday. 1) I loved the book, owning a very tattered copy of it till the library guy insisted on closing my acccount till i returned it. 2) Johhny Depp - I dont swoon over him in a cinderella’s step-sister fashion, but brief glimpses in movies such as “what’s eating gilbert grape”[also admit this movie had one of leonardo di caprio’s finest performances] and “nick of time” [dont ask.nothing spectacular]. “Pirates of the carribean” astounded me for his daring flamboyance in the character, as did ‘finding neverland’, a heart-warming tale about the most adorable characters and 3) it was so damn hot i needed to get to an AC theatre to get some relief. oh well, so much for cinematic allure.

I must admit the reviews and previews had prepped me well for the flick.As i hope this one will do too. A popular sentiment seems to be that you need to know the book to get the movie-absolutely false. While the same could be true of hitchhiker’s guide, is definitely not applicable to “charlie and..”. Expect eccentricity, if you dont already. And ‘leave your senses behind’ might make sense for cheesy hollywood flicks, but not for this one. Its whacko allright.Its madness allright. But it has a chocolate-truck full of brilliance going for it,and that nobody can deny.

The movie opens with the story of impoverished Charlie bucket, played by a Freddie Highmore, who manages to retain a permanent look of optimism and hope through the movie.Living in a lopsided cottage [trust me, its REALLY lopsided] he dreams of the willy wonka chocolate factory, satisfyin himself with stories of the factory told by delightful ex-employee grandpop. Living in a home filled with four grandparents and one set of parents, he is a cheerful child, helpful and finding immense joy in building a remake of the factory using toothpaste caps his dad finds at his factory. Charlie lives for the one willy wonka chocolate bar he gets every christmas, a gift from his penniless yet comforting family.

Excitement mounts as five golden tickets to a factory tour at the chocolate factory are hidden in 5 fortunate chocolate bars. The television telecasts the first four winners: an obese german kid, a maniacally competitive bubble-gum girl, a brat spoilt beyond rotten apple tolerance and the geekiest squid-kid you’ve ever seen. Charlie, by a strange quirk of fate, ends up being the last of this pack.

What follows is the most enchanting magical adventure that ever followed Mary Poppins. Johhny depp makes his giggling entry, clapping like a school-child at his own introduction scene by puppets that ultimately burn and perish. Johhny depp, is quite simply, Willy Wonka. While i do not remember the particularly clownish features of Wonka from the book, he looks and plays like the most brilliant man-child there was, and does it splendidly. With a prep-schoolgirl haircut, stupendously garish costumes and a face as colorful as a bucket of chalkpowder, he breezes into the movie with the audacity and the giggling excitement only an accomplished actor could bring. He seems naturally at ease with his antics, grinning stupidly, wincing visibly and explaining earnestly what could only be a load of nonsense to most of his visitors. “Well, you couldnt really make whipped cream without whipping the cow. Then that simply couldnt be whipped cream could it?” he asks,not innocently, but with the pompous arrogance that he so richly qualifies for.

The journey through the chocolate factory is enchanting–chocolate waterfalls to churn the chocolate and devious gadgets to make the perfect bar of chocolate seem to make perfect sense to a chocolate-lover, i would assume. The workers in the factory, the oompa-loompas didnt quite leave behind a satisfied feeling though. Apart from the desi-actor interest as well as the spontaneous song-and-dance routine that is famously inspired by bollywood dances, acted as a breather, helping me only to digest what I’d seen. Blame it on bollywood? why,most certainly Smiling

The rest of the children seem like spooky villains of my childhood nightmare. Their acting, however, is excellent. Cold, callous and calculating, they mildly interest willy Wonka, who cant for the life of him, fathom why they are so small and why they would try to please him. Freddie Highmore, playing Charlie, however, leaves a vaguely unsettling feeling of not having had enough of him. An excellent actor in “finding neverland”,he seems to be content in the background of Willy Wonka’s hysterical character.

Special effects–full marks. No surprise from hollywood i suppose, but somehow I feel the creative indulgence in a cartoon or a fantasy flick far exceed the cold metallic feel of star wars or the matrix. This movie qualifies without a doubt for the “breathtaking” effects and visuals. I could only hope there will soon be a “willy wonka” ride in disneyland that would be even one quarter of what the movie inspires.

The rest of the cast is just fine. Hop onto the ride to the chocolate factory this summer, and if you dont come out with a sweet taste and a feel-good attitude, well, you have only yourself to blame.Seriously. Its not a movie that you either like or hate. Its a movie that you qualify to love, or not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

its all very fishy

“I hate pets”, I told my friend. Those lovely, cuddly, fuddly, cutie-pie dogs and cats that one would go “choo chweet” for? yep, those. Hate them. zilch love. I do scowling competitions with bulldogs and laziness competitions with neighbors cats, i do admit. But a pet of my own? no way. But waittaminute! Wasnt always like to so, you know..It wasnt? you ask, idly biting your nails while pretending to have better things to do. “No it wasnt”, i reply with breathless misunderstanding of your polite question as indefatigable interest. Twas a decade and five years ago, that self and bro were immersed in a game of friendly carromboard. It was the typical cozy family scene, if you would kindly like to imagine it. Grandma sat in one corner, a happy contented smile on her face. Pallavi, the chief protagonist, sacrificer par excellence and the undying symbol of indian womanhood, was finally allowed to meet her son on a famed tamil TV soap. She approved of pallavi, casting a reproachful look at her own daughter-in-law in the kitchen. Pallavi was righteous. Why, wasnt she a mute spectator to the hundreds of ill-treatments her husband’s family threw at her? Good for pallavi, grandma [must’ve] thought as she muttered a few prayers, either for pallavi or her own pallavi-wannabe acquaintances. Moving if you will, to the kitchen that grandma had only recently thrown a disdainful look towards, you will see the daughter-in-law, cooking. The daughter-in-law, in stark contrast to the previous character, wasnt happy. She cared a damn for the floosie pallavi on the telly, choosing to focus her attention to thinking evil thoughts about lakshmi, the maid. She conjured up 6 situations with nonchalant ease, all six of which were understandably intolerable reasons for the maid to ditch work today. Beginning with the possiblity of her having skulked away to watch that recent telugu movie released in the theatre nearby [“wait till she asks for a loaner tenner again!!”] to truly morbid situations like a fatally wounded husband in the hospital [an excuse used twice, much to mom’s annoyance]. cut back to the living room, where self and bro sat, practicing scornful looks for each other’s loss in the game. My two goldfishes, yes, i admit, i owned two, swam contently within the confines of their aquarium. I had plastic weeds and makeshift homes placed in it, hoping to con them into thinking they were in the ocean. I didnt see why they wouldnt think that, there was even a plastic mermaid to complete the look. I took aim at the last coin on the board, already tasting the victory [or the talcum powder of the board, who knew wot victory is supposed to taste like?]. As i whooped with joy, i noticed a well-developed scorn on bro’s face turn into a scowl [very jekyll and hydish transformation i assure you] and undeniable rage. One loud kick to the board sent it swirling to the table atop which perched the aquarium. CRASHHHH!! Grandma turned towards us in an unnerving slow-motion mode while mom scurried out, hoping it was the door shutting after lakshmi’s entry. The glass-pieces lay broken on the floor, water all over the carpet and sofa and two particularly unhappy fish flapping their bright orange fins against a decidedly confusing tile-piece of the floor. There was perhaps a 5 second period of silence at the end of each everyone spoke non-stop for two minutes. Gist as follows: Mom: dont move a step. Bro: Save the fishes. Grandma: Dont touch them! we are vegetarians [duh??] self: I won! Mom: Who did this? Bro: you cheated. we have to save the fishes! grandma: We are brahmins! [for added effect i presume] Self: I didnt! the fishes are dead! Well, mine turned out to be the last sentence spoken. The fishes were indeed dead, victims to staunch brahminism is grandma, and sheer laziness on our parts. Silence returns for 20 seconds at the end of which lakshmi enters the scene, dabbing dry eyes with end of pallu, shouting ‘amma…my husbandd….” while she tried to hide ticket stubs behind her. —curtains close—- So, there ya go. i owned a pair of pets that were sacrificed at the altar of brahminism. Needless to say, i was traumatized and rebelled by eating fishes,chicken and all that moved in hte years to come. Attempts to get another pet were thwarted by still-a-fan-of-pallavi grandma, who suddenly viewed my non-vegetarian habits to be similar to barbarians. Her justfitication was that i would eat my pets, as was now a non-vegetarian. All i can say of this indelible memory was, I won :-)