Freeze Frame #163: The Newsroom

The trouble with being an insufferable churl about word choices is that the universe, yourself included, pisses you off on an almost hourly basis. (It’d be a helluva lot more frequent if I actually paid attention to what went on around me.)

But then, this scene comes along, like some kind of cosmic gesture of solidarity. That it comes in the middle of an immensely problematic third and final season suggests that the Department of Cosmic Gestures is staffed with beings possessing an overdeveloped sense of irony.

One wishes they’d greenlight a spin off about the early days of Atlantis Cable News. I for one would happily look forward to watching it if Aaron Sorkin solemnly promised, in the name of Archimedes, to insert enough volume of Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston to displace the batshit.

If music be the food of love

Forget the drama about who might win, the post-performance gushing or even the insightful commentary from some of the judges, the “comedy track” about fat kids and Tamil accents and whatever else the producers’ desperate, picayune imagination can come up with in order to fill the airtime with something other than just music. Here’s the single biggest reason why I love this show, and the others like it. Thanks to the song choices of the contestants, I have found my list of favourite songs growing longer, and in unexpected ways. They have, to extend a Jerome K. Jerome analogy, made my boat bigger. A few highlights:

Udhaya Udhaya Ularugiren (Udhaya, A. R. Rahman): The song has its idiosyncrasies: the word kaadhal often involves an abrupt jump from one note to another, and Hariharan’s rendition of that part is hit-or-miss. But it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the song. It’s rare to hear a duet with two distinct voices and feel like you’re hearing one soul. Thanks to the film deservedly sinking without a trace, this song, I believe, got undeservedly sidelined, until it was popularized by kids in competition wanting to cut their teeth on a really tough Rahman number.

Enakkoru Kaadhali Irukkindral (Muththaana Muththallavo, M. S. Viswanathan): A dear friend introduced me to this, and it was steadily climbing the charts in my head before a recent Super Singer performance gave it another ratings bump. I’ll be honest: MSV is not my favourite singer, except for certain specific songs that I don’t think anyone else would’ve done justice to. When viewed in the context of the film (MSV sings for Thengai Srinivasan, SPB for Jaiganesh), it works fine. But forget all of that and listen to how it is composed.

Also, there’s something to be said for the experience of hearing a kid perform a song that’s probably more than twice his/her age, and feeling like you’re hearing it for the first time. I think part of it is because you’re not hearing it in the context of the film, so even if someone’s voice is too lightweight, or not raspy enough, or too strong for a particular song, you don’t care much. You end up focusing on how *their* rendition makes you feel. It is, of course, easier with songs you haven’t paid much attention to before this. But even with ones that you’ve had on repeat loop in a corner of your brain for years, there’s the occasional Eureka moment. Like listening to Divagar sing Neeye Unakku Endrum Nigaranavan and realizing that, until then, I had never even considered the possibility of that song being done solo.

Thanks to these performances, I’ve found myself really listening to these songs. I’ve found myself trying to figure out, in my head, how I would break down the difficult parts of a song and teach it to myself. The music is no longer just helping me relax after a long day at work or during a long commute. It’s saying good morning.

Postscript: While composing this piece in my mind, I started skimming through my old posts on music. Here’s what I discovered: I have written petabytes of stuff about bad moviesbad performances, bad directors, bad screenwriters, even bad acceptance speeches, but I have rarely written about bad music. Oh, I’ve made the odd snarky comment, but otherwise, it’s been mostly about how much I’ve enjoyed listening to this song or that. I’ve written thank you notes to composers, singers, sometimes even to music itself.

Now, part of this is due to the sample size: I write more often about the movies, and therefore find more opportunities to complain. But I don’t think it’s just that, really. (Not that I let data get in the way of my conclusions anyway.)

I think it’s simply the fact that music was the first thing I fell in love with.

Thin isn’t always in

I just got a glimpse of Nigella Lawson on Discovery Travel & Living. Like I mentioned in my earlier post on Julie & Julia, watching people cook isn’t really my thing. But for Nigella, I am willing to make an exception. In the interest of not getting kicked in the shins by my wife, who is sitting nearby, I shall not rhapsodize.

Anyway, the reason I write is because the woman looks distinctly thinner this time around. I’m sure this is healthy for her. I might even bring myself to be happy for her.

But the truth is, the basis of her appeal is the fact that she makes stuff that would send dieticians shrieking in horror, eats it all up (sometimes even wakes up in the middle of the night to do it), and — here’s the important part — looks all the better for it.

At least that’s part of her appeal. The other part… well, I promised I wouldn’t rhapsodize.

Thank you, etc.

Not from me, although I have much to be thankful for. This one is about acceptance speeches.

My friend Rajendran posted a comment to my Kate Winslet post asking whether the reference to Emma Thompson was due to her acceptance speech at the Globes years ago, for Sense and Sensibility (Thompson won for Best Adapted Screenplay). And I realized that not many people might know about this little gem. So here it is, in full:

 

Thank you very much. Good Heavens. Um, I can’t thank you enough, Hollywood Foreign Press, for honoring me in this capacity. I don’t wish to burden you with my debts, which are heavy and numerous but, um, I think that everybody involved in the making of this film knows that we owe all our pride and all our joy to the genius of Jane Austen. And it occurred to me to wonder how she would react to an evening like this… [Puts down statue on stage, reads paper] And this is what I came up with.

Four a.m., having just returned from an evening at the Golden Spheres, which despite the inconveniences of heat, noise and overcrowding was not without its pleasures. Thankfully, there were no dogs and no children. The gowns were middling. There was a good deal of shouting and behavior verging on the profligate, however, people were very free with their compliments and I made several new acquaintences. There was Lindsay Doran of Mirage, wherever that might be, who’s largely responsible for my presence here, an enchanting companion about whom too much good cannot be said. Mr. Ang Lee, of foreign extraction, who most unexpectedly appeared to understand me better than I understand myself. Mr. James Shamis, a most copiously erudite person and Miss Kate Winslet, beautiful in both countenance and spirit. Mr. Pat Doyle, a composer and Scot, who displayed the kind of wild behavior one has learned to expect from that race. Mr. Mark Kenton, an energetic person with a ready smile who, as I understand it, owes me a great deal of money. [Breaks character, smiles] TRUE!! [back in character] Miss Lisa Hanson of Columbia, a lovely girl and Mr. Garrett Wiggin, a lovely boy. I attempted to converse with Mr. Sydney Pollack, but his charms and wisdom are so generally pleasing, that it proved impossible to get within ten feet of him. The room was full of interesting activity until 11 p.m. when it emptied rather suddenly. The lateness of the hour is due, therefore, not to the dance, but to waiting in a long line for a horseless carriage of unconscionable size. The modern world has clearly done nothing for transport.

P.S. Managed to avoid the hoyden Emily Thompson, who has purloined my creation and added things of her own. Nefarious Creature!

Thank you.

 

This is the sort of speech that makes for a wonderful trivia question, and warms the cockles of my quizzing heart. She followed this up with an Oscar win as well, although that speech was marginally less wonderful:

 

I don’t really know how to thank the Academy for this. And if I try we’ll be here till Christmas. So I better get on…

Before I came, I went to visit Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral to pay my respects, you know, and tell her about the grosses. I don’t know how she would react to an evening like this, but I do hope — I do hope she knows how big she is in Uruguay.

Profound thanks to Columbia Pictures and the lovely forms of Lisa Henson, Gary Wiggan, and Mark Canter for hiring a first-time writer; to James Shamus for his rare intelligence; to Sidney Pollack for asking all the right questions, like ‘Why couldn’t these women go out and get a job?’ Why, indeed. To the cast and crew, for being impeccable. To my friend and my teacher, Lindsay Doran, for being the single most frustrating reason why I can’t claim all the credit for myself. And finally, I would like with your permission to dedicate this Oscar to our director, Ang Lee. Ang, wherever you are, this is for you. Thank you.

Source: Wikiquote

Bonus feature

Since I am in a generous mood (also since I don’t have to do much else other than cut-pasting these items here), here are Youtube links to Hugh Grant’s acceptance speech for his second Golden Globe win (Best Actor in a TV Series – Drama, for House):

 

30 going on 13, and in the wrong lane

Okay, so here’s what happened. I was channel surfing this weekend and found that my viewing choices boiled down to:

  1. Die Hard 2 – The one where Bruce Willis fights off a bunch of terrorists in an airport
  2. Lizzie McGuire – The Disney TV series, not the movie version

And, put your drink down before you read this otherwise you might spray it all over the place, I chose the latter.

Yeah, I know. Now you see what I mean by being in the wrong lane.

So I sat down and made a list of all those things that seem to indicate that I am turning into a thirteen year old girl. I seem to have a valid defense for each of these things, but when you add it all up, it’s kinda distressing.

And no, before you ask, I do not, do Not, do NOT like Princess Diaries. And I like the sequel even less. I think Anne Hathaway can be quite interesting in a good role, but this isn’t it.

  1. Lizzie McGuire: I don’t like Hilary Duff now, but I think she did have considerable charm when she still had her baby fat. I watch the show once in a while for the same reason that I watch Full House – it’s got a Pleasantville kind of feel to it. Kinda like HAHK for TV.
  2. Kelly Clarkson: I have, on occasion, sung along when her Walk Away plays on the radio. Although, in my defence, the video does involve grown men singing along with an enthusiasm that is entirely inappropriate given their age and plumbing.
  3. Teen rom-coms: I only like some of them, like Say Anything or 10 Things I Hate About You. I have, however, watched a distressingly large number of them, including Pretty in Pink.

So I’m trying to figure out what I could do to act my age and gender. The best idea I’ve come up with so far is to spend an entire day alternating between watching Akira Kurosawa and surfing for porn on the Net. If you have a better suggestion, please do let me know.

ps: Telling me to just give in to the inevitable and start listening to Vanessa Anne Hudgens doesn’t count as a suggestion.

pps: And no smirking about the fact that I actually know who Vanessa Anne Hudgens is either.

ppps: Okay, so it’s 31. At my age, I’m allowed an error term or two.