Saturday, October 17, 2009

What lies beyond the cringe

Last night I met a different kind of hero. A hero for our times. Not in spandex and a cape, but in small but strangely loose (for how small they were) gym shorts and alternating head bands. Adventures of Power is about Power, the son of a copper miner, whose harshest word is “shoot” and whose passion is to feel the music to the point of moving inexplicably to play ‘air drums’ because his father couldn’t afford to give him an actual drum-set or drumming lessons. But this seeming deficiency turns into the hero’s greatest strength as he exhaustedly realizes after overcoming many a difficulty to get to the air drumming championships in Newark, NJ, that he doesn’t need drums, he is drums.

While full of comfortably referential moments for a generation that’s grown up on a diet of mockumentaries and fish out of water dramedies, what gilds this strange child in a layer of specialness is its song of protest and its complete surrender to what must be one of the higher states of Buddhist spirituality – a total lack of self consciousness. As we watch Power clear out rooms with his gyrations, we are taken to the point of cringing and then menacingly further till we realize that what lies beyond the cringe, if we would ever be brave enough to get there ourselves, is an innocence and freedom so pure it’s exhilarating, and we are not just relieved, we're made proud.

Ari Gold shows us independent filmmaking at its uncompromising, auteurist best. Four years in the making, on a budget orders of magnitude less than its authentic locations and large ensemble cast would lead you to believe, each seamlessly edited moment is rich with design details and a musical texture so integrated with the story that it could have only been created along with the process, not laid down after. Songwriter, performer, producer Ethan Gold displays an astonishing intuition, stamina and range of genre talent as the soundtrack majestically becomes the spine of the film.

And so Power, with a vibrant visual and sonic landscape at his back makes his way through his adventure – to express solidarity with his father and fellow strikers at the copper mine back home and to find a place in a world where no one understands ‘no drums’.

There are several reasons why he is a hero. It would be one thing if he took us on the staple arc of ugly duckling discovering he’s a swan, or misfit triumphing over the cool kids. But Power’s insistent message is ‘we’re not better, we’re different’ and his only request of his opponent is not to be less evil, or to give up and go home, but to fight as if he means it, to take the challenge seriously. Ari Gold uses a flippant vehicle to deliver a slap in the face about being honest, about knowing when and whom to laugh at. He’s a new kind of hero because his $2,000 prize money won’t go towards a new apartment – he currently sleeps in a tent when his aunt needs to rent out his room for extra money – or to win the girl, all she wants is his soul and a bit of organic “o” cereal – and it certainly won’t go towards buying an expensive drum set. It goes half to his musical idol and half to the copper miners who’ve lost paychecks because of the strike.

The punctuated violence of the riot police is contrasted by the constancy of the miners’ passive resistance, and our own ability to tap into an eternal beat originating from our mothers' wombs and carrying us forward, invisible, reassuring, highly idiosyncratic, yet when combined in the right moments with the beat that others dance to, supremely Powerful.

Playing in theaters this week.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

From Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium"

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unaging intellect.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Cultures of Los Angeles

From silicone and bleach to South Indian food and bangles, it's all in a day's drive around Los Angeles.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Cheerios bailing out the newspaper business?

Advertising has always supported the papers but now it's heartbreakingly not enough. Which is why I must admit that getting two boxes of cereal attached to my LA times was pretty moving and even softened this harsh critic of the packaged goods industry for all the processed foods they churn out.  The NYT also came wrapped in a Kellog's Raisin Bran advert but no actual cereal to report (score 1 for General Mills).  Maybe the packaged goods industry can convert their severe mastery of brand management and ability to zombify a nation of millions into believing artificially colored popped rice flakes coated in sugar were part of the food pyramid because a funny cartoon animal said so..into a set of creative partnerships and campaigns to save our newspapers. I still ate oatmeal for breakfast. 

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Indu's posterous

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sudden fountain on Sunset Blvd

Posted via email from Indu's posterous


"We are not a destination site" was the most frequently heard phrase in my conversations at the interactive parties at SXSW.  But Garry Tan of Posterous said it to me early in the evening so he gets credit there. I'm happy about extreme meta-organizing tools, the organization of organization.

Posted via email from Indu's posterous

Sunday, March 15, 2009

SXSW Day 2

Holy crazy overachieving feature directorial debut alert! Sin Nombre was jawdroppingly good. Cary Fukunaga, 31, of Oakland...don't ever let me underestimate filmmakers from the Bay Area! He researched Central American gangs for two years, sat in prison cells with them as they copyedited his script (which was in Spanish, even though he's not a native speaker), then rode on TOP of immigrant trains from Honduras to Mexico to prepare for this moving, beautifully filmed, border crossing saga. No surprise, it will be released in theaters (NY, LA and SF) on March 20th.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SXSW Day 1

From the balcony level at the majestic Paramount theater in Austin, I started the festival with Alexander the Last, Joe Swanberg's 5th film in 5 years to premiere at SXSW. Does this man sleep? In a first in terms of distribution platform, it was simultaneously available on demand to cable viewers. Handheld, intimate shots of couples in relationships, being tempted by people they worked with in creative collaborations; lots of talking, staring, thinking, making out. It was sexy and real.

Walking down 6th Street.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Rajputian Moustache

Imbued with both historical significance and straight-up vanity, the image of the majestic mouche followed us everywhere in Rajasthan. While in exile, a celebrated Rajput King, Maharana Pratap (1542-1597) gets a letter from his cousin about the Mughal emperor, Akbar's planned seige of the kingdom of Udaipur. Knowing Akbar's might, the cousin asks if he should "keep his hand over his mustache" (various translations - from twirling the moustache, to wearing the moustache in an upturned arch vs. turned down) or take his life with his own sword. Maharana Pratap famously writes back that he must wear his moustache turned up proudly as a symbol of defiance and they successfully fend off the Mughals for the ensuing years. As seen on the streets today, the tradition continues.

Thursday, January 01, 2009