Bossypants :: Tina Fey

I’m trying out a new succinct format of writing from now and just a heads up: my site will be getting a makeover! For now, let me share the good, the bad and the interesting of Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants.

THE GOOD

Judging from Ms Fey’s track record with Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and possibly the best chick-flick screenplay of all time (see Mean Girls) , I’m sure it comes to no surprise that this book is similarly brings abdominal-pain-inducing laughter. And amongst all the hilarity, lies several nuggets of wisdom making the book a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read.

THE BAD

The book is quite heavily intertwined with her own work and reading some parts of it without familiarity with 30 Rock, particularly, will seem irrelevant and boring. Thankfully, watching 30 Rock is no chore by any means, and watching it will most certainly not be a waste of your time, let me assure you. It does feature quite a bit of M-rated language for those of you who are concerned about it but is not at all, a major part of the writing style.

THE INTERESTING

Having never watched SNL, this book exposed me to a whole new side of comedy. I had always thought that comedy was simply to entertain and naively, to make people happy. This book opened my eyes the knowledge that comedy can be used to subtly used to manipulate peoples’ opinions and perspectives. If you’re still not sure as to how this works, learn it from the master herself:

You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn’t even realize it because of all the jokes. It’s like when Jessica Seinfeld puts spinach in kids’ brownies. Suckers!

Note: Do not be deterred by the strange/weird/creepy cover. It is only a testament to Tina Fey’s quirky awesome-ness.

Argo

Let me begin by saying, that this film was by far, one of the most original film stories I have viewed in a while and, bonus: it was executed brilliantly. Not only was it related to a part of history that I only vaguely, it was bizarre enough to capture my attention. Simply put – it was a world created from reality, but completely separate from my reality.

The main character was both complex and credible – something I look for in a good film. In fact, all the actors were to some degree, a little complex and most definitely credible. Each and every character and/or social group had some form of justification for their actions and behaviour – whether it be the the ‘hostages’, the dear inhabitants of Hollywood or the classic CIA officers. In particular, the presentation of the population of the population of Iran was balanced (or as balanced as it could have been) and whole – completely contrasting the constant demonising and fear inspiring depicition of them in the media.

Needless to say, its win at the Oscars for Best Picture was surprised and shocking to most. I think what made this film stand out amongst the pack was its balance. Although it was a serious film, it had just the right does of suspense, comedy and irony, creating a fast paced film of depth , meaning credibility (on a human level) and action – who doesn’t love a good car/plane chase? :)

Overall, a wonderful story with a touch of sci -fi for good measure. I hope you have/will enojy it as much as I did!

Zero Dark Thirty

Prior to watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had no knowledge or background of the film or its subject – except that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that the lead was Jessica Chastain, and that it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden.

Post-watching this film, I realised just how poorly equipped I was to watch the shocking spectacle that was, this film.

The opening scene was not really a scene at all, but rather, a sequence of voices, overlapping, distorted, blurred, and to be perfectly honest, utterly confusing. However, I think that’s what the director was hoping to achieve – a true representation of the chaos and horror that terrorism creates.

Having not watched a single Bigelow film preceding this one (namely – The Hurt Locker) I was caught unaware, in witnessing such brutal raw violence. Although some may disagree, I don’t believe it was gratuitous, but rather, acted as a driving necessity for the maintenance of the pace and intensity of this film. The lack of exaggerated editing and non-diegetic music allowed the meaning and reality of torture and helped me realise its place not as a glorification of torture, but rather a truth and as presented – a means to an end. It also helped that these scenes focussed featured heavily on the distraught reactions of Maya, played by Jessica Chastain – and further amplified the humanness (and consequentially, the inhumanness) of the act.

As for Ms. Jessica Chastain herself – I found she gave quite an astute and sustained performance throughout and despite, of all the tumultuous chaos of her character’s ‘hunt’ and  as an actress, brought an insight of character, producing a credible, human story – supported by the evidently incredible director Kathryn Bigelow.

It is the human story, amongst all the contextual details, that allowed me to fully appreciate this film. Although predictable, the unconventional story-telling techniques employed in this film are what set it apart. Emotions were evoked not only in the dialogue (as is normality) but rather in the pronounced body language of the actors once again, creating  room for multi-layered interpretation and a meaning that is not clear or explicit but fascinating.

Overall, an extremely intelligent, clever representation of a very unclear reality. I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, nor can I say it was particularly thought provoking however it is smart, unrefined (in a good way) and above all, VERY good entertainment.

1984 :: George Orwell

After reading Fahrenheit 451 and really enjoying the profound questions it raised, I decided to pick up a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. As a novel, I would place in the category of: the-books-that-are-really-really-really-boring-for-the-first-75-pages-but-get-more-and-more-interesting-as-you-go-along. It is highly political and in my opinion, delves deep into human nature and psychology quite early on in the novel.

The writing itself,  is descriptive and intelligent and yet, quite well constrained in its depiction of London – and fittingly so as it reflected the views of the ‘heretics’ of the 1984 society.

As a modern reader, with modern views on freedom, peace and war (the core contradictions of the Party) I felt like one of Winston Smith’s kind – opposed to the Party’s ways – and a companion of sorts. Of course, this also encompassed the feeling of pride in the main character and his devotion to the supposed Brotherhood. Now, I realise that this presentation of the world that Orwell created was a rather intelligent one, and the well-established link between the myself and Winston Smith (of the novel) was what drove me to read the novel, until the very end – possibly because reading further would perhaps, be alike to reading one’s destiny – and don’t we all yearn to know the secrets of our future? :)

Further along the storyline, he betrays to these values and moreover, he betrays himself and his opinions. Now, instead of  evoking the expected sense of treachery among the audience, it instead, hold an air of inevitability – brought by the thorough and gradual breaking down of the character.  And so, our ‘hero’, Winston Smith, is not really a hero at all, but a standard human with human flaws and desires – a quality that I think, makes this science fiction tale, one of credibility. It allowed me to empathise and truly understand his pain and weakness – eventually lending myself to forgiveness.

What fascinated me the most, was the extent of power and intelligence of the Party. Orwell seems to have combined his political knowledge and perception of human nature as well as human psychology to create a virtually invincible authority. However frightening and fearful it may be, it was unanimously successful in its objective – maintain immortality of power within itself. The depth of the Party’s ideology is astounding and as presented by Orwell, appears infallible. It is as if he is saying, it is here, among the power and the fear, that perfection is found – in the eyes of the Party and its subjects. This idea resonated with me – the idea that perfection can be seen if shown in the correct light – is one that can still be applied to today.

At its core, 1984 is truly centred around Winston Smith and his human journey through hope and belief and his subsequent loss of everything we deem to be human. I, being a person who can be totally absorbed by psychology for hours on ends, cannot even understand how this book changed my perspective on the future and my future but at this moment, it is safe to say that it did – and I am happy for it :)

Life of Pi :: Yann Martel

I read this book in anticipation of Life of Pi [directed by Ang Lee] the multi-award winning film that, as I’m sure you all know, has been getting both public and critic attention as – stated by the Guardian

The most beautiful film of the year, a technical marvel, and magic realism at its most magical.

To be honest, I can’t really see it as a truly masterful film. Yes, the visual aspect of it is stunning – the realism of it all was quite astounding – however, my verdict of this film is rather similar to the one I had of Avatar. Although the films were a spectacle to be seen, I believe that Avatar had a predictable plot, and that Life of Pi lacked the action to drive the film to the end. What made the film disappointing for me, was the lack of detail, so exquisitely and explicitly written in Martel’s novel. In addition to this, I felt the movie lacked a sense of “forever” that the book captured in terms of the length of Pi’s journey to his inevitable arrival on land.

I guess by now, you can deduce that I enjoyed the novel far better than the film, and so, here are a few of my favourite phrases from the novel.

Quote One :: Life & Death

This is so beautiful. I’ve never seen the relationship between life and death described so…well, beautifully

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.

Quote Two :: Time

I have noticed this happen to me many times – when I lie idle ;)

I did not count the days or the weeks or the months. Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time.

Quote Three :: Freedom

Freedom is a very confusing concept – one that I am trying to come to terms with everyday.

I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

Quote Four :: Survival

I have a habit of dreaming too much and doing too little. Society tells us to dream but fails to really convey the action that is involved in achieving those dreams (and the hard work!)

Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.