Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Killing two birds with one book

Remember the first Ice Age movie? It was an animated movie, so naturally it was billed as ‘entertaining fare for children’. And enjoy they did, going by my nephews and nieces or children of friends. But you know who enjoyed the film more? The people who used to be children till a decade or more ago, and some who are children still, albeit with beards, moustaches, wives and credit card debts. So while Ice Age was great fun for the child in us – and I don’t mean this in the sense of being pregnant – it was great pun for the adults that we supposedly are. Adults in terms of having read enough, gone through life, watched enough movies than the average bear cub. The puns (taekwon-dodo!) , the contextual insinuations, the absurdness of dodos preparing for the ice age with just three melons (melons, as in the fruit, you dutty bugger). See what I mean. It takes an adult to get that joke. You can’t expect a 10-14 year old to get all of that. But that’s not to say they didn’t enjoy Ice Age. That’s where we ‘adults’ have an advantage – we used to be children once.

The same is the case with certain books. Conveniently billed ‘Young Adult’ fiction. But like not all books – in my highly subjective opinion - can be truly enjoyed by adults as well (and this coming from me, who still reads Three Investigators still). So assuming you’re looking for a fun read that takes you back to the ‘good fun’ days of adventurous adolescence, but one that also offers the ‘adult’ in you a second layer of fun and added reading pleasure (and if you wish, one that you can deconstruct, look at it from a societal perspective, etc. etc.), here’s a short random list from theBekku, of ‘young adult' books.
All of these books fall under the same category as say, The Hobbit, which was primarily for children but can be enjoyed by adults (unlike LOTR which was the opposite). And yes, Ice Age. This list is by no means exhaustive, by any measure. These are just the book’s I like enough personally to recommend. If there are any I’ve missed, or you think I should read, do a good turn and let me know in the comments section. And because fantasy, adventure, a sense of newness, discovery and wonder is according to me one of the chief emotions of young adult-hood, this list tilts more towards fantasy and plausible alternative worlds and situations rather than books like say, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Now, you’re either the kind of person who will take my word for it (for reasons known best to you) or the kind who will still Google the title/author and look it up on wikipedia/ amazon/ good reads. Thusly, this list is not accompanied by any descriptions or gushing praise, all I can say is that if you’re a reader you won’t regret the time you spend within these books. Get ready for subterranean cities, other worlds and other mothers, competitions, rumbling mobile metropolises, magic and fun.

China Mieville – Un Lun Dun
Ursula LeGuin – The Earthsea quartet (• A Wizard Of Earthsea • The Tombs of Atuan • The Farthest Shore • Tehanu)
Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials trilogy (• The Golden Compass • The Subtle Knife • The Amber Spyglass)
Neil Gaiman – Coraline
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Philip Reeve – The Mortal Engines quartet (• Mortal Engines • Predator's Gold • Infernal Devices • A Darkling Plain
Jeanne DuPrau – Book of Ember quartet (• City of Ember • The People of Sparks • The Prophet of Yonwood • The Diamond of Darkhold)
Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games trilogy (• The Hunger Games • Catching Fire • Mockingjay)
Norton Juster – The Phantom Tollbooth

There you go. Will add more in a while or a bit, whichever is earlier.
And here’s how you kill two birds with one book.
Gift your son/daughter/nephew/niece any of the above (or all), and introduce them to new worlds of wonder and come across as a great father/father/uncle/aunt and when the brats are done with it, quietly borrow and read it. Or the other way ‘round. Also recommended for adults who want to buy it solely for themselves, for the children they are ;)

Friday, July 27, 2012

A reply – and a thank you note – of sorts

Many many moons ago, a die-hard motor-head and F1 encyclopedia who happens to be a friend of mine (yeah Ajit, you only man, and thanks for the quote) mailed across a great quote that I’ve never quite forgotten. Looking it up took me to an olde episode of BBC’s Top Gear, in which Jeremy Clarkson test drove – I don’t quite remember, think it was – an Aston Martin. But the point is this. After a fabulous drive and gushing praise, he mentioned a couple of small minor details that people said could be improved upon, and to such people who complain because they want to, Clarkson said, in a way only Clarkson can, “Complaining about this car is like getting into bed with a supermodel and complaining she has slightly irregular pubes.”

How’s that for a reply to the people who would go nitpicking for the sake of it, about The Dark Knight Rises, things like ‘why are the cars marked GPD when it should be GCPD as was established in a scene in the previous movie?’ I could’ve at least given marks for this kind of an observation if the city in question was say, Kuala Lumpur and they’d marked the cars KPD, not KLPD.

Then, on to certain plot points in the movie which a friend of mine who goes by the handle Finnegan’s Wake fabulously called the ‘Manmohan Desai elements’. Things like ‘how Batman could prance around after being lame for almost 40 minutes of the movie?' (errr...perhaps that metal frame thingy on his leg?) and ‘how could a quack fix wayne when he had disfigured Bane while trying to treat him’ (no he didn't. the guy who fixed him was someone else. the quack who disfigured bane was the guy who suddenly starts speaking propah English after mumbling around in some strange language). Oh wait, there’s another Manmohan Desai element (I love that term!).

If that explanation wouldn’t suffice those for whom there is no pleasing, then I offer you the recourse of what Coleridge termed ‘suspension of disbelief’. And the burden is on the viewer, not the creator. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to believe that is perfectly plausible for a grown man, who is also a billionaire by the way, to run around in a suit wearing eye shadow with out of the world gadgetry (and in the comics world, friends with an alien boy scout who flies around wearing his red undies outside his blue tights), then why is it so impossible for you to believe that such things too can happen. ‘Clean Slate’ can fit into a thumb drive. Why let it come in the way of ‘the larger enjoyment’ of the film? Remember it’s a movie, not a balance sheet.

If you want everything to be perfectly explained and everything slotted just right, with no facts out of place, then I suggest you go check out the CERN ppt on the Higgs Boson after the big find. Plus, it’s in Comic Sans.

The other big complaint is the supposed lack of humour. While I can counter that by saying there was just enough humour to get by, like the rooftop sequence where Catwoman does a Batman on Batman. Remember Batman is supposed to be this fatalist, brooding dude. And the whole tone of the movie is dark and somber. It’s TDKR, what were you expecting, an Adam Sandler movie with Marx Brothers dialogues? And less humour or no humour compared to what? Perhaps putting nipples on the batsuit would’ve helped, yes?

That said, do I have no complaints against the movie? I do. I wish Nolan had given more screen time to Catwoman. In tights. Not Selina Kyle. Catwoman. But then, Nolan’s only human. Don’t expect him to get everything perfect. Did I hear someone say fan service? Yep. So is asking for Bane to be given more screen time too and a fitting ‘death’. But remember what Clarkson said about sleeping with the supermodel?

Now that all that is taken care of. Let’s move on to the Trilogy proper. Because many tend to forget that TDKR is but the final part of a Trilogy. As Satyajit Chetri aka Beatzo has nailed it, “For the first time in the history of this 73-year old character, we have a complete story, with beginning, middle and end.” If its comics and beatzo speaks, question it not. And that statement above – which I completely agree with – is more objective than you would care to admit.

Oh wait. Speaking of comics, there’s enough people out there who would revel in showing off their Bat-knowledge – and thusly seem cooler somehow – by suggesting things like ‘they should’ve let Talia live because she’s pregnant with Damian!’. Damian who? Aw c’mon dude. You don’t know? (gets into let-me-out-fanboy-you mode with fake humility mask) In the comics, Bruce Wayne and Talia al’ Ghul have a kid called Damian Wayne who then becomes the 5th Robin. What…5th Robin? Ya man…blah blah Jason Todd blah blah Drake blah blah Stephanie Brown blah blah Red Hood blah blah. And so on. Dude, stop it.

Nolan’s mined the best parts from the comics, most notably the tone and motivations and characters and delivered a nice self-contained trilogy. Everything that needs to be there is there. It’s not comics. It’s Nolan-verse. And it’s just as valid as Timm-verse or DC-continuity. If there’s no venom pumping into Bane’s veins, it just isn’t. And if some white haired dude in some Pit replaces Lady Shiva, so it shall be in Nolan-verse. Every medium has its own pace, it’s own possibilities and limitations. Be thankful for what you got, and the awesomeness that was the experience across the Trilogy and quit comparing it to the comics, and to Arkham Asylum the game, and……how in TDKR Catwoman should’ve gotten more screen time in tights (oh wait, that’s me.) So if you want to want a nice conversation about possibilities and batman comics, that’s cool, but if you’re just out to prove how many Batman-related Wikipedia pages you’ve mugged up and throw trivia around without a context, you can please stuff it down Jean Paul’s valley.

So there you have it. TDKR, a fitting finale to a fabulous trilogy. A trilogy which has set the standard for comic book adaptations. A trilogy that humanised the ‘superhero’. A trilogy that transcended the comic-book-movie genre. A trilogy that gave us Heath Leger’s Joker, a killer bat mobile, Hans Zimmer’s scores, Anne Hathway in leather, a great supporting cast, great dialogues, great action, Anne Hathway in leather, and above all a nice cohesive and a sooper movie experience, three times over, not counting the umpteen repeat viewings. I know I am not even scratching the surface about all the things that were superfantabulous about the Trilogy, like the new bat-logo, but then, I’m sure you know them already and I’d have to take a day off to type out the whole list.

So in closing.
Thank you Christopher Nolan.